Justice system broken in Kelowna says MLA

Broken justice system

Crime used to be a fairly small part of our Kelowna society, but not anymore.

Last week, Statistics Canada confirmed what many of us are feeling—our city is becoming less safe.

Kelowna saw a double-digit increase to our violent crime severity, with our percentage increase coming in at a whopping 14%. To put that in perspective, it is almost 12,000 violent crimes for every 100,000 people. That’s up by 7% over last year alone.

We know prolific offenders and other repeat offenders are an issue. In a letter from the Urban Mayors’ caucus to the then-attorney general David Eby in the spring, it was noted 15 offenders are responsible for more than 1,000 police interactions.

It’s no wonder we aren’t feeling safe. But this is not simply a policing issue. The budget for Kelowna’s police department has gone up by 84% in recent years. Throwing more money towards policing isn’t going to help unless there are other supports in place.

Our RCMP officers go into policing to solve crime and increase public safety. They need to be equipped and resourced to see this happen. Despite the arrests they make, the rest of the system is not functioning as it should, and these officers see these same offenders day after day. How could this not be demoralizing?

We need a different solution. Simply doubling down on a broken system with more money isn’t going to fix the problem. During the five years of Eby’s time as attorney general, violent crime severity rose 45%. And under NDP government, B.C. saw a 75% increase in the rate of no-charge assessments and a 26% decrease in the number of accused being approved to go to court.

Meanwhile, in Kelowna, we are less safe.

The system is broken, and we need to fix it. I have written before about the need for complex care and believe wholeheartedly in this being a necessary part of the solution. This was promised, and even announced in Kelowna, but has not yet been financed or come to fruition. Again, this is solely under the government’s purview. And our crime rate increases.

When the system is broken, people begin to take matters into their own hands. Here are just some examples as of late. A shop clerk runs out after being robbed and apprehends the suspect. A facebook group starts up to maintain a watch on theft and crime in Kelowna, called Take Back Kelowna. A retail worker recently quit, citing unsafe conditions due to all the robberies and attacks in their store in the mall.

Talked about in car pools and over dinner with neighbours, crime is a massive topic of concern for Kelowna. The RCMP are doing their part but there is much more that could be done by government.

My question for you is two-fold this week:

Do you feel safe in Kelowna, and what do you feel should be done to increase your safety?

I love hearing from you! Please email me at [email protected] or call me at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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