UPDATE 1:55 p.m.
A large tourist industry, lack of social services and population growth have pushed Kelowna’s crime rate to the highest in the country, according to the central Okanagan’s top constable.
Supt. Kara Triance held a press conference Wednesday to respond to a Statistics Canada report that puts Metro Kelowna’s crime rate per 100,000 population at the highest in the country.
Metro Kelowna spans the entire Central Okanagan Regional District.
“These numbers, make no mistake, are very concerning. We see them increasing and responding accordingly,” Triance said, while outlining a number of proactive policing measures the detachment has deployed.
Triance noted that Statistics Canada’s crime rate figures omit visitors and tourists to the city, which will drive up the area’s crime rate.
She could not quantify this impact when asked what proportion of crime can be attributed to tourists. When pressed by the relatively low crime rates of other tourist hotspots like Victoria and Vancouver, she said those larger centers have far more social services.
“Here we know it can be a six month wait for someone who has a complex addiction problem, who commits a crime in our area and is caught by our proactive law enforcement team, and who wants coping with his addiction,” Triance said. “Instead, they are released onto the streets with no place to live, and left in a capacity where they will commit more crimes.”
Triance said the “catch and release” justice system also has an impact on crime rates, going back to past criticism from prosecutors and courts.
With the Kelowna metropolitan area being the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada, all municipalities served by the regional detachment have increased police funding, which Triance is grateful for.
“We know that with growth we need to increase our response, we’re going to see an increase in incidents reported to police and we’re going to see an increase in incidents reported based on population.”
She said they focus on partnerships with associations and community groups to solve problems in neighborhoods. Partnerships with Interior Health and other social service groups target the root cause of crime.
“I’m not here to tell you that we don’t have a problem that needs to be answered. I am here to tell you that these concerning statistics are the ones we are actively working on.
ORIGINAL 1 p.m.
The Kelowna RCMP commander says this week’s Statistics Canada report that considers the region’s crime rate to be the highest in the country lacks context.
Supt. Kara Triance says Kelowna saw a significant drop in crime in 2020 due to the pandemic, so comparing this year to 2021 may not be fair.
She noted that crime in the central Okanagan only increased by 4% between 2019 and 2021. The crime rate per 100,000 population increased by 10% between 2020 and 2021.
“2020 was an outlier year and not a direct comparison,” she said in an email to Castanet.
However, many other cities saw their crime rates drop between 2020 and 2021. Vancouver (-7%) and Victoria (-6%) saw their crime rates drop while the national figure only increased by 1 %.
Triance also noted that Kelowna’s major tourist attraction – 1.9 million visitors last year – skews the crime rate per 100,000 population.
She holds a press conference at 1 p.m. to take stock of the situation.