‘Chronically understaffed’ Kelowna RCMP needs more cops says consultant

Consultant Robert Prosser says the four new officers approved in the recent city budget are not enough.

Consultant Robert Prosser was hired by the city to prepare a report detailing how many police officers are needed in Kelowna.

The consultant who says Kelowna needs a minimum of 15 new RCMP officers to adequately fight crime in the city, says the Kelowna detachment is “chronically understaffed” and has been for the last 10 years.

Saskatoon-based consultant Robert Prosser, who presented his report to Kelowna city council Monday, said as it now stands the detachment actually needs 40 more officers but with a significant reduction in crime levels that number could be reduced to between 15 and 20 new officers. Fifteen new cops would cost the city an extra $2 million per year and that alone would equate to a tax hike of about two per cent.

Following his presentation to council, Prosser said if the city wants to see a hoped for reduction in crime rates any time soon, it should kick-start the process and fund more than the four new officers and additional civilian crime analyst it agreed to hire two weeks ago. Those new officers will bot likely be here until the fall.

“If you add four or five (officers) per year, it’s only going to prolong the results,” said Prosser.

The $50,000 study he conducted not only recommends more cops be hired by the city, it also says that while Kelowna’s crime rate has pretty much stayed the same over the last eight years, other, similar-sized communities in the province have seen dramatic decreases because they did, in the past, what Kelowna is now being told to do.

Prosser compared Kelowna to several other B.C. communities as a comparison—communities he would not publicly identify but whose identities are known to city officials—and found that through proactive measures and crime prevention tactics, crime levels were reduced as much as 31 per cent.

Because the Kelowna RCMP detachment members are so overworked, there is little or no time for crime prevention here, he said.

Statistics Canada has identified Kelowna as the most under policed metropolitan area in the country,

Local RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon said Prosser’s report has borne out what he has been telling city council for years, he need more officer here to handle the current workload.

One indicator of that workload at the Doyle Avenue detachments is an astounding 52,625 hours of accrued vacation time owed to local cops, as well as 3,649 hours of accrued overtime. The vacation and overtime cannot be taken because of officers are so busy. The overtime and vacation could cost the city as much as $3 million more on top of the nearly $20 million it currently pays for policing.

While Prosser’s report says the minimum number of additional officers required here is just over 15, he said because Kelowna is a popular tourist destination in the summer— attracting an estimated 1.5 million visitors—he did not think that the desired crime reduction numbers could realistically be reached to bring the number of Criminal Code cases per 100,000 population down to 70 from the current 128.

So he said the number of new officers required for the city is likely more like 20. He also recommended a third crime analyst be hired by the city, as it has been shown in other communities crime analysts are a tremendous help in lowering crime rates.

Prosser’s report says as more officers are hired and Criminal Code offences are reduced to a more realistic 90 per 100,000 population, more pro-active initiatives and crime prevention measures can be made here by RCMP members who have more time time to be out in the community.

City council instructed four senior staff members to prepare a report based on Prosser’s recommendations for its consideration before it finalizes the 2012 budget in May. The report is scheduled to go to council before the end of April.

While not committing to adding more police officers than council has already approved for this year, Mayor Walter Gray said council must consider taxes on one hand and levels of service on the other. The current proposed city budget calls for an tax increase of just one-tenth of one per cent for 2012.

“It comes down to the cost of services verses the need for services based on the public’s appetite for change,” he said.



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