Kelowna mayor calls for more support for RCMP in fighting root causes of crime

Mayor: RCMP can't do it all

Mayor of Kelowna Colin Basran says that while he is “concerned” about new statistics that show a surge in crime in the region, the RCMP need to be supported in fighting to root causes of the issue. 

The new data from StatsCanada shows the Central Okanagan saw the highest increase in crime rate across any region in all of Canada between 2018 and 2019, and as a result, had Canada's second highest crime rate in 2019 next to Lethbridge.

Kelowna's crime severity index, which takes into account the volume and severity of police-reported crime, rose by 20 per cent in 2019, the largest increase of any region in Canada.

The region saw a 24 per cent increase in the crime rate, bringing the rate to 10,747 incidents per 100,000 people. The national average is 5,874. Kelowna's violent crime rate jumped by 60 per cent, to 1,537 incidents per 100,000 people. This puts Kelowna at the third highest violent crime rate in Canada, behind only Lethbridge and Thunder Bay.

“There’s no question I am concerned about these statistics and the impact on residents throughout the Central Okanagan. I will caution that many factors influence statistics about reported crime, and they are an imperfect measure of community safety,” Basran said, pointing to changing reporting standards that contributed to spikes in some categories.  

Basran said that most community members (87%) feel safe in Kelowna, referring to the 2020 Citizen survey. That same survey found that the most cited factors in not feeling safe are related to homelessness and public substance use.

Twenty-five cents of every tax dollar collected by the City of Kelowna goes towards police and bylaw services, with the most recent municipal budget funding 11 new RCMP officers and 14 "safety-related civilian support positions.” Close to $40M is spent on community safety each year.

The city says since 2015 it has funded 34 new RCMP officers, 20 new firefighters, 10 more bylaw officers and 31?additional safety support staff. 

“We work with RCMP every day to address criminal behaviour, but we need senior levels of government to address the underlying problems of health, housing and poverty that contribute to these downstream issues,” Basran said, adding he has been lobbying upper level of government for “services that address mental health and addiction, affordable housing, municipal financing and public transit.”

“Community safety cannot rest on the shoulders of police, alone.  A multi-pronged preventative approach is needed to reduce crime and improve community sense of safety in our city.

RCMP need support from other agencies to deal with repeat offenders. The criminal justice and health systems need to address the underlying conditions that lead to crime, including addictions, homelessness and poverty,” Basran continued. 

He said he is encouraged by recent development that a Community Court is returning to Kelowna, something he called “a huge win.”

Basran said everyone at the city, RCMP and partnering groups are working hard on the problem. The Kelowna RCMP's new commanding officer offered her response to the crime stats Thursday evening. 

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