Some of the blame for Kelowna’s high crime rate last year can be attributed to tourism and the city’s rapid growth, says RCMP.
Statistics Canada reports that the Kelowna census metropolitan area (CMA), covering Lake Country to Peachland, had the highest crime rate per 100,000 population last year in Canada.
During an RCMP news conference on Aug. 3, Supt. Kara Triance noted that not only is the Central Okanagan a smaller CMA, but Kelowna is also a popular tourist destination.
“Canadian statistics reports are very clear,” she said. “Visitor population is not taken into account when addressing population and reported incidents of crime.”
Kelowna sees approximately 2.2 million visitors every year.
“You have to take into account the visitor population… 2.2 million visitors is going to drive those numbers up.”
Triance was not able to immediately say what percentage of criminal incidents may be committed by visitors, but stressed it’s important to look at the city’s crime statistics in context.
“Vancouver is six times the size of Kelowna. When you compare Vancouver on the crime severity index (CSI), one serious violent offence in Kelowna is going to raise us multiple percent in our CSI. However, one serious file in Vancouver is going to be a fraction of a percentage higher in their CSI.”
Triance said Kelowna’s numbers are concerning, but added crime in the city is comparable to Penticton, Vernon and Kamloops.
“We’re all very closely linked,” she said.
She said she believes that is a result of other complex issues that affect crime including health, social factors, housing, and substance use.
“I am not here to tell you that we don’t have a problem that needs to be responded to,” she said. “I am here to tell you that these concerning statistics are ones that we are actively working on.”
Triance added Kelowna RCMP continues to work with the city, community partners and other government agencies in addressing crime. That includes a focus on the downtown and Rutland.
“Every municipality in this area that contributes to this CMA has increased their police resources this year, and we are grateful for that,” she said.
Although not all available RCMP positions in the Kelowna metropolitan area are filled, 29 new resources have been brought in since January this year, added Triance.