Penticton sees significant property crime change, but top cop says pandemic the cause

Property crime jumps down

Property crime stats are down for the third quarter of 2020 in Penticton, a fact RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter attributes in part to the ongoing pandemic. 

At Tuesday's council meeting, Hunter presented incident numbers for July, August and September, which included a dramatic 26 per cent decrease year-over-year property crime: 1,561 incidents to 1,152.

But Hunter was quick to stave off celebration, a position he has taken in the past when presenting positive trends to council. 

"We’re down 26 per cent from really high numbers,” Hunter explained. “I know there’s a lot of victims out there … it’s not a really good news story for a lot of [community members.]"

Hunter indicated fourth quarter statistics are likely to be telling, as CERB and other pandemic benefit payouts change their terms.

“I think we’re going to find some of our clients don’t have as much money as they did at the beginning of the pandemic," he said. 

Total calls for service year over year are down 13 per cent, from 5,412 in quarter three of 2019 to 4,723 in quarter three of 2020.

While Hunter is happy with that, he also shared another issue plaguing his police. The ongoing pandemic continues to mean that criminals are out on the streets faster, whether it be because the court system is now trending toward immediate bail rather than incarceration or because breaches of probation are not being prosecuted. 

"That’s the bread and butter for policing and crime reduction strategy,” Hunter explained. “That’s one of our biggest tools in managing chronic offenders but it’s definitely the type of offence that we aren’t getting as many charge approvals as we would like.”

He used the example that in recent weeks, Penticton RCMP have made "a lot" of arrests for stolen vehicles and property. 

"They are all back out on the street. And that’s just the capacity of our system, during the pandemic, as you can well imagine is a little bit frustrating."

Coun. Katie Robinson said that at this fall's annual Union of BC Municipalities convention, city council had the chance to ask the attorney general directly about this catch-and-release issue, as they have many times before. 

"I hope they heard us this time. It’s starting to be a yearly refrain from this council that we bring it up with them, but we’ll continue to beat the drum."

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