Kelowna residents feel safe despite high crime stats

Kelowna's census area reached fourth on the crime severity index Wednesday with a rating of 98

Recent stats that peg the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area as fourth on a nationwide crime-severity index don’t “jive well” with how safe area residents feel, says Mayor Colin Basran.

“The last citizen survey said 94 per cent of Kelowna residents felt safe,” said Basran, Thursday, stressing the fact that the Stats Canada figure encompasses every local community from Lake Country to Peachland, not just Kelowna.

Kelowna’s census area reached fourth on the crime severity index Wednesday with a rating of 98, which reflects both the volume and severity of crimes reported by police. That’s a rise of nine per cent from the previous year.

Despite pointing out that it’s not just Kelowna encompassed in the statistical ranking, Basran said that the city is doing what it can to make the area safer, acknowledging that current housing and unemployment issues are a concern.

That, he said, started with additional police officers being hired. This budget cycle the city approved the local detachment taking on 23 additional officers.

“But it goes beyond hiring new officers and arresting people,” he said.

“We are continuing to work with higher levels of government on housing initiatives…if you don’t have a home you turn to crime to make ends meet.”

City politicians are also working with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission   to figure out employment opportunities, he said, because a healthy income source reduces the reasons to turn to a “life of crime.”

Basran also pointed out the city hired a social issues manager to deal with ongoing community concerns and mentioned that there are a select group of dedicated criminals who continue to break the law and cycle through the courts before landing on local streets.

The Mounties were slow in responding to questions about the crime rate, but Cpl Tania Carroll sent out a press release Thursday, indicating that repeat offenders returning to the Central Okanagan are a problem.

“Many factors affect crime rates, either negatively or positively, including prolific offenders, homicides, targeted enforcement, sentencing and population increases or decreases,” said Carroll.

“Experience has shown that a few people in a community are responsible for the majority of criminal offences which results in a tremendous strain on police and public resources.”

For the first time in 12 years police-reported crime rose across Canada, not just in Kelowna. Rounding out the top four cities for crime severity were Saskatoon, which was ranked first with a rating of 112.5, Regina was second with a rating of 107.6 and Edmonton was third with a rating of 101.6.

Across Canada drug offences such as possession, trafficking and importation fell nine per cent in 2015. Cannabis-related crimes fell 15 per cent and cocaine-related crimes dropped by seven per cent. The rates for all other drug crimes in the country rose 14 per cent since last year and have been on a steady upward climb for over a decade.

There were 2,700 fewer youth between 12 and 17 years old charged with crimes in Canada and of the 92,000 accused 45 per cent were formally charged and the rest dealt with by other means.

Violent crime rose six per cent across the country. Charges of attempted murder rose 22 per cent, firearms charges were also up 22 per cent, homicide 15 per cent, robbery was up five per cent, sexual assaults were up four per cent and major assaults climbed three per cent.