Top crime story of year: Prolific offenders causing problems across B.C.

Targeting prolific offenders

Castanet is revisiting the top stories of an eventful 2022. Today, for the crime story of the year, we look at the issue of prolific offenders and police and politicians attempts to deal with them.

Repeat criminal offenders were on the top of mind for politicians, police and the general public in B.C. this year.

Across B.C., police and politicians spent the year highlighting their concerns with offenders who continue committing crimes following relatively short jail sentences.

In Kelowna, police took the extraordinary step of warning the public after prolific offender Justin Collins was released on bail in August.

“The Kelowna RCMP continue to make arrests and bring Justin Collins to court, however without adequate consequences or compulsory pathways to mental health and substance use programs, our public is at risk. Justin Collins is a repeat offender who has no regard for the safety and well being of others,” said Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance.

Police disclosed that Collins had generated 421 police files since 2016.

Former mayor, and now accused criminal himself, Colin Basran expressed frustration at the time, asking: "How is that possible?”

"We are waiting now on a report from the provincial government on potential charges to our justice system that will hopefully close this catch and release loophole once and for all because this is not acceptable," Basran said.

The opposition BC Liberal Party pressured the NDP government over repeat offenders being granted bail across B.C., only to reoffend yet again.

In Kelowna, this issue was highlighted in the case of Tyler Newton, the man convicted of the 2014 unprovoked fatal stabbing of Cesar Rosales on a transit bus. Newton has since completed his manslaughter sentence, but was convicted this year of a handful of offences in 2021 and 2022.

He was then charged again with aggravated assault from a Dec. 31, 2021 incident. But while he was released on bail in September, he failed to appear in court just six days later, leading to a B.C.-wide warrant for his arrest. But while he was eventually re-arrested in October, he was once again released on bail just two weeks later.

“Why was Tyler Newton's right to reoffend more important to this NDP government than the right of the community to be safe?” BC Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano Karin Kirkpatrick asked B.C. Attorney General Murray Rankin during Question Period in late October.

But ultimately, the Crown dropped the charges against Newton on Oct. 28.

Data was released this year from Statistics Canada that showed the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area had the worst crime rate of any of the country's 35 census metropolitan areas in 2021, with a rate of 11,112 incidents per 100,000 people. This rate was up 10 per cent from 2020, while the Canada-wide rate rose jus one per cent.

The B.C government commissioned an independent report on prolific offending in May from health researcher and criminologist Amanda Butler and former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard. It was released in the fall and contained 28 recommendations.

Last month, newly sworn-in premier David Eby announced widespread changes to B.C.'s criminal justice system. One of the initiatives includes setting up “repeat violent offender response teams,” consisting of police officers, dedicated prosecutors, probation officers, support personnel and correction supervisors. These teams will monitor high-risk repeat offenders and use that gathered information in the accused's bail and sentencing hearings.

The reintroduction of these teams was one of the 28 recommendations from the Butler/ LePard report.

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