The RCMP and City of Kelowna officials are identifying property crime as the main reason behind a spike in reported crimes in Kelowna.
From burglary to vandalism, property crime is the most commonly recorded offence in most cities, according to the RCMP—a stat which certainly rings true for Kelowna, according to Statistics Canada’s annual crime report for 2018. Of the 14,684 criminal code violations (excluding traffic violations) in Kelowna, 10,017 of them were property crime violations, says the report.
Over the past five years, Kelowna has shown a steady increase in property crime, rising to 7,231.81 per 100,000 in 2018 from 5,290.49 incidents per 100,000 citizens in 2014.
It’s this statistic that the RCMP points to as the cause of the increase in Kelowna’s Crime Severity Index.
“It’s no surprise that property crime continues to drive our crime rates here in the Central Okanagan,” said Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.
“This issue is not unique to just our area, and in most cases, property offences are preventable. We will continue to work together with our partners to take a proactive and analytical approach to crime prevention and actively target repeat and priority offenders in our community.”
Darren Caul, the newly hired director of community safety with the City of Kelowna, echoed the sentiment. He said it’s crucial to look at the context for statistics like these.
“A change in crime stats can be the result of a number of different things. It may be that citizens are reporting crime more often and it could be the result of targeted enforcement efforts, which is certainly the case—in part—here,” said Caul.
“Kelowna is allocating almost 30 per cent of its taxation spendings to police services in 2019. Since 2015, we have added 23 RCMP officers and nine bylaw officers, four of those bylaw officers coming just in the last year. Those four officers are focused on foot patrols and bike patrols, especially in the downtown area and areas with higher rates of property crime.”
He added few cities of 130,000 population also welcome more than 1.5-million visitors annually.
“So we need to keep that in mind when we talk about crime stats. It’s difficult to understand what is increasing and decreasing these stats.”
While the Crime Severity Index in Kelowna is trending upwards, the Kelowna RCMP said the decrease in violent crime has been significant.
“It appears as though the largest increase in the Central Okanagan (5.6 per cent) was for non-violent crime, which I believe includes all non-violent Criminal Code violations, traffic-related offences, as well as drug violations and all federal statutes. What is important to recognize is that violent crime was down 18 per cent compared to 2017,” said O’Donaghey.
Caul said the message he takes from the statistics is “very clear.”
“Kelowna is a safe city,” he said. “That is reflected in our 2018 citizen survey, in which 87 per cent of residents surveyed said they feel safe in Kelowna.”
Statistics Canada’s data also showed another increase in possession of controlled drugs and substances. Possession-related crime has been on the rise in Kelowna for several years but O’Donaghey said that increase is due to an increased response to drug-related issues.
“We believe that the Kelowna stats are high in this area primarily based on the RCMP’s pro-active approach to street-level drug trafficking arrests. The majority of local possession charges come as a result of arrests made for other offences and the possession is often a secondary offence determined during the primary police investigation.”
The City of Kelowna has taken a similar approach, increasing private security, downtown patrol teams and bylaw personnel, according to Caul.
“(They all) contribute to being extra eyes on the street, increasing the reporting and early detection of drug-related crime. And of course with added RCMP, we have increased enforcement ability.”
Rates of homicide were down to just one in 2018 from five in 2017. The lone homicide in Kelowna last year was the death of 23-year-old Esa Carriere from Mississauga, Ontario. Nathan Truant, 26, and Noah Vaten, 20, both of Kelowna, along with an 18-year-old Kelowna man and an 18-year-old Kelowna woman were charged with manslaughter in relation to Carriere’s death.
More crime statistics from Kelowna as well as across the province can be viewed at statcan.gc.ca.