The Central Okanagan has a bit of a reputation for being dodgy when it comes to crime.
The Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area currently boasts the highest crime rate in B.C., according to Statistics Canada’s annual figures—a couple of years ago it was the worst in the country.
Of course, as the Mounties tell us on the heels of every report, the stats are a bit dubious. It’s important to look at the types of crimes being committed, they say. The size of the area being taken into account and the population it represents are also relevant.
There’s enough to their argument that I think most Kelowna residents don’t blame local RCMP for our annual national shaming. We know they work hard to keep this city safe.
But that black mark on our collective reputation should serve as a reminder that the community deserves to hear from the RCMP on a regular basis on more than simply what’s happening with their latest fundraising endeavour.
That’s the way it once was.
In years past the superintendent used to offer insight into their operations when he brought his quarterly report to council. Speaking in the public arena, he’d regularly answer questions about the newest ream of statistics, offer tidbits about policing endeavors and even give insight into challenges.
It felt like transparency.
In turn, when he came knocking on council’s door looking for the dollars needed to hire more police officers, it helped ensure the community was behind the expenditure.
There were daily opportunities to have questions answered back then, too.
If a crime happened that shook the community’s sense of safety, reporters would ask the Mounties questions, they’d answer and, in turn, reporters would disperse what they learned to the public. In many cases that was simply the message that their well-being was not at risk. Sometimes it was more.
That’s gone, too. Questions are asked. They just aren’t answered, or when they are there are a lot of “I don’t knows” offered
This seemingly systemic silence among the current police regime is a problem, particularly when following violent crimes or even the threat of them.
If you don’t believe me, just speak to parents of students at a West Kelowna school. In recent weeks an online threat of violence prompted a number of parents to pull their children from classes when police representatives stayed silent on questions about the threat. That allowed fear and misinformation to fill in the gaps.
Or ask the residents of a neighbourhood where an attack of a well-liked couple went largely unremarked on by police. We were told they were in serious condition after an attack, but nothing more. Nothing about whether the attack was targeted. Nothing about whether everyone else was safe.
The rumour mill has produced something to assuage their concerns, we’ve been told.
But as one woman said when called, what that community didn’t know initially “was terrifying.”
Answering reporter’s pesky questions may not help when it comes to the actual business of policing, but this community deserves more than to be left on edge by the dribs and drabs currently doled out, especially given the trust bestowed upon the RCMP.
Maybe we can ask a question about that next week when the city holds its annual budget meeting.
If history is any indication the superintendent will be there to speak to the needs of the RCMP. And, perhaps then he can address any concerns about public accountability.