RCMP search the trail leading to Polson Park behind the Kal Tire office in June after reports of a shooting in the park. (Bretany Tourout/Morning Star)

Crime rate jumps nearly seven per cent in Vernon

According to the latest figures released by Statistics Canada, crime is on the rise

Statistics Canada has released the latest crime severity index (CSI) report and the numbers show crime in Vernon is on the rise.

According to figures released this week, the crime rate in the Vernon municipal area has jumped 6.88 per cent, and the rate in the rural region has spiked 33.69 per cent.

The municipal numbers on the CSI recorded show 5,028 Criminal Code offences in 2016, 343 incidents higher than the 4,685 incidents recorded in 2015.

“I can confirm that in the latest Crime Severity Index of police-reported crimes, Vernon saw an increase in both the violent crime and the non-violent crime severity in 2016 over 2015,” said Vernon RCMP Supt. J.B. McNamara in response.

“While the annual crime severity report is based on police statistics, a number of factors can contribute positively or negatively including prolific offenders, serious persons offences (like Attempted Murder), and targeted enforcement by the police.”

Related: Vernon RCMP investigate rash of break-and-enters

McNamara argues that Vernon is also a smaller city and population is a factor when determining the rankings.

“A single crime — either violent or non-violent — can have a more significant impact on crime severity rankings than it would in larger centres,” said McNamara.

When looking at violent Criminal Code offences, offences like murder and assault, the percentage difference is even worse for the Vernon area.

A total of 734 violent crimes were recorded in 2016, a 12.28 per cent jump over crimes recorded in 2015. That number works out to a rate of 1,849.33 violent criminal code offences per 100,000 people, notably higher than the provincial rate of 1,139.34 per 100,000 people.

“In 2016, Vernon experienced a number of violent incidents, including three where a firearm was discharged. These incidents, which were linked to the drug trade, would significantly impact the city’s violent crime rating,” explained McNamara.

It’s a point also shared by Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund. While Mund said he had not yet had a chance to go over the CSI report, he knows the numbers can be influenced by specific events.

“There were some assaults last year that we had and high-profile incidents in the downtown core. It is very hard to judge how those numbers react,” said Mund. “Numbers go up and down as police arrest prolific offenders. Once those offenders get back out, numbers climb. I always go back to the line RCMP always use, 95 per cent of the crime is committed by five per cent of the criminals.”

The total number of alleged offenders charged in 2016 came in at 787, up from 758 in 2015. For violent crimes, 258 were charged, a 12 per cent increase over the 230 persons charged in 2015.

While the numbers may concern some, Mund said he still has full confidence in the Vernon RCMP.

“I believe Vernon is a safe community,” said Mund. “Violent crimes happen in every community, but it’s the frequency. If this was happening every weekend then yes, I would be very, very concerned, but it is not happening on a weekly basis.”

McNamara said the detachment is “committed to developing crime reduction strategies that identify and target known prolific offenders, and we will continue to work with our partners and the community to reduce all types of crime in Vernon.”

Statistics Canada uses the CSI to measure the volume and severity of police-reported crime in Canada.

In 2016, the national CSI increased one per cent from 70.1 in 2015 to 71.0, but remained 29 per cent lower than a decade earlier in 2006.

At 5,224 incidents per 100,000 population, the police-reported crime rate, which measures the volume of police-reported crime, was virtually unchanged in 2016. This rate was 28 per cent lower than a decade earlier in 2006.

There were almost 1.9 million police-reported Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2016, approximately 27,700 more incidents than in 2015.

Related: Kelowna still safe despite high crime rate, says mayor

The highest crime rate in the country for 2016 was Regina, followed by Saskatoon and Kelowna. Abbotsford was also noted as one of the top rates in Canada.

Related: Crime rate down six per cent in Abbotsford-Mission

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