A disturbing fact was revealed in Kelowna City Council this week.
Three of four homicides in the city last year involved a mental health component, according to local police.
“Those files are all still before the court, so I won’t be able to speak in detail about that,” said Kara Triance, Kelowna RCMP superintendent, in presenting 2021 crime statistics to council on Feb. 28.
Last May, the murder of Thomas Chadwick was later investigated by the B.C. police watchdog as RCMP and members of the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) responded to two calls at a residence in the 3400-block of Sexsmith Road to perform a wellness check on a man. That man was Lorence Earl Williams, who was charged with the second-degree murder of Chadwick, who was found dead at the Sexsmith Road home.
Then in October, a 54-year-old woman was arrested at a home on Bechard Road after RCMP discovered a man’s body. She was released the next day without charge and then apprehended again under the Mental Health Act and taken to Kelowna General Hospital.
The homicide at UBCO late last month also involved a mental-health component. The attacker was apprehended under the Mental Health Act and faces possible murder charges. A 24-year old female security guard suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack and later died in hospital.
RCMP calls for service involving mental health-related issues were up slightly in 2021, at 3,105, compared with 2,899 in 2020. Triance said there is a need to respond to multiple different areas, such as the need for care while incarcerated, the need for mental health and substance use support and dealing with mental health calls in general.
“That is another area where police officers continue to attend calls for service alone, without a clinician,” said Triance. “Only 33 per cent of the calls we attended (mental health-related) in 2021 had a clinician with them.”
Councillor Loyal Wooldridge brought up the issue of safe supply, in terms of prescriptions, for those living on the streets and how it may help reduce property crime. Triance said the BC Association of Chiefs of Police, of which she is a member, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police actively endorse safe supply.
“We believe that will change the conversation we are having in our communities about addiction and property crime,” said Triance. “If accessed through health services and in conjunction with detox facilities, enhanced counselling services, and drug addiction services coupled with safe supply, that would be a really effective approach going forward to reducing crime in our community.”