UPDATE 1:55 p.m.
A large tourism sector, lack of social services and growing population has pushed Kelowna’s crime rate to the highest in the country, according to the Central Okanagan's top Mountie.
Supt. Kara Triance held a news conference Wednesday to respond to a StatsCanada report that placed Metro Kelowna’s crime rate per 100,000 residents at the highest in the country.
Metro Kelowna spans the entire Central Okanagan Regional District.
“These numbers, don't get me wrong, are very concerning. We see that they're going up and responding accordingly,” Triance said, while outlining a number of proactive police measures the detachment has been rolling out.
Triance noted that StatsCanada’s crime rate figures omit visitors and tourists to the city, something that will push up the region’s crime rate.
She could not quantify that impact when asked what proportion of crimes can be attributed to tourists. When pressed about the relatively low crime rates of other tourist hot spots like Victoria and Vancouver, she said those larger centres have far more social services.
“Here, we know it can be a six month wait for somebody who has a complex addiction issue, who is committing crime in our area and arrested by our proactive enforcement team, and wanting to deal with their addiction,” Triance said. “Instead they're released out to the streets without a place to live, and left in a capacity where they'll be committing more crime.”
With Metro Kelowna being the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada, all the municipalities serviced by the regional detachment have been increasing police funding — something Triance is grateful for.
“We know that with growth, we must increase our response, we're going to see a drive in incidents reported to the police and are going to see an increase in incidents reported based on population.”
She said they are focusing on partnerships with community associations and groups to address issues in neighbourhoods. Partnerships with Interior Health and other social service groups are targeting the root cause of crime.
“I am not here to tell you that we don't have a problem that needs to be responded to. I'm here to tell you that these concerning statistics are ones that we are actively working on.”
ORIGINAL 1 p.m.
The commanding officer of the Kelowna RCMP says this week’s StatsCanada report that pegs the region’s crime rate as the country’s highest is missing some context.
Supt. Kara Triance says Kelowna saw a significant drop in crime in 2020 due to the pandemic, so comparing that year to 2021 may not be fair.
She noted crime in the Central Okanagan has increased just 4% between 2019 and 2021. The crime rate per 100,000 residents increased 10% between 2020 and 2021.
“2020 was an outlier year and not a direct comparison,” she said in an email to Castanet.
Many other cities, however, saw drops in their crime rates between 2020 and 2021. Vancouver (-7%) and Victoria (-6%) saw their crime rate decline while the national figure went up just 1%.
Triance also noted that Kelowna’s large tourism draw—1.9 million visitors last year—distorts the crime rate per 100,000 residents.
She is holding a news conference at 1 p.m. to address the situation.