Armstrong’s property crime rate is on the rise, according to recently released data from Statistics Canada.
The city’s property crime — a category that includes violations ranging from minor theft to arson — increased by 38 per cent in 2018.
The spike coincided with a 38 per cent jump in the rate of Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic violations).
Property crime is the most common offence in most cities, and Armstrong’s crime breakdown is no different. Of the 277 total non-traffic criminal code violations that occurred in 2018, 174 of them were property crimes.
The number of people who received charges for property crimes also went up, from just two in 2017 to nine in 2018.
Why the increase? One factor to note is mischief.
According to Statistics Canada’s annual crime report there were 53 cases of mischief reported last year, up from 32 the previous year.
That accounts for part of the property crime puzzle, but similar spikes can also be seen in theft under $5,000: small theft (non-motor vehicle) had a rate 70 per cent higher in 2018 than in 2017, while theft from vehicles went from 26 incidents to 41 (a 57 per cent jump).
Not to dwell on the negative – there were some bright spots in the data.
Armstrong’s crime statistics are broken into rural and municipal. The former showed decreases in all amounts of theft, as well as mischief. The rural area also had a clean sheet for arson (there was one incident of arson in 2017).
Property crime throughout the North Okanagan
Vernon’s 2018 property crime outlook was a mixed bag of improvements and setbacks. For instance, possession of stolen property was down 22 per cent.
But car theft went up sharply — to a total of 157 in the city and 29 in the rural surrounding area.
In all, the city saw only a marginal rise property crime in 2018 (a rate increase of 1.3 per cent).
Enderby, Coldstream, Spallumcheen and Lumby all saw less property crime than in the previous year.
Lumby saw the most dramatic reduction, cutting down on its property crime rate by 25 per cent.
Lumby’s 2018 property crime profile was a unique one. While its incidents of theft over $5,000 (non-motor vehicle) jumped up to 20 from just two in 2017, this spike was offset by big reductions in smaller theft, possession of stolen property, fraud and mischief and others.
Geoff Gaucher, manager of protective services in Vernon, says high property crime numbers are a reflection of an inflating number of underprivileged citizens.
He pointed to a slew of stolen propane tanks in Vernon earlier this year in the colder months.
“When you’re living in an improvised shelter and it drops below zero at night, some of these folks are using propane heaters to keep warm, and they appear to be taking propane cylinders from parked RVs,” he said.
A November report from the Social Planning Council of North Okanagan showed that Vernon’s homeless community was on the rise.
The council’s annual census counted 161 people living outside or in shelters in 2018 versus 153 in 2017 and 144 in 2016.
In Vernon, total possession of stolen property was at a five-year low in 2018, down to 57 cases from last year’s total of 73 in the city, with improvements in the surrounding rural area as well.
Vernon RCMP have a two-person seasonal enforcement unit that works closely with bylaw officers in parks and the downtown area.
“We have seen a fair bit of property crime related to break-ins to parked vehicles where folks are forgetting some of the basic rules of making yourself less of a target to thieves,” Gaucher said.