Kelowna still safe despite high crime rate, says mayor

Kelowna has yet again gained the dubious distinction of ranking in the Top 10 of Statistics Canada’s CSI

Kelowna has yet again gained the dubious distinction of ranking in the Top 10 of Statistics Canada’s crime severity index (CSI).

The figures released Monday showed Kelowna’s CSI to be fifth highest in Canada, at 100.3. In 2015, the CSI was 98, but the city ranked fourth in the country—that was due in large part to crime surging in other cities.

While the annual report casts the city in a negative light, Mayor Colin Basran said that it’s still a safe place to call home.

“I believe Kelowna is a safe community, but it’s not without its issues,” Basran said. “We know that the increased presence of people on our streets and the continued fentanyl crisis are certainly raising the concern of residents, so we want to continue to do what we can as a city to help address those issues.”

From a city perspective that means finding the people who are committing the crimes the help they need, whether through the legal system, addiction and mental health services or the homelessness strategy.

The CSI is calculated by Statistics Canada assigning each violation a weight based on the violation’s incarceration rate, as well as the average length of prison sentence handed down by criminal courts.

The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight. To calculate the CSI, the weighted offences are added up and divided by the population. The CSI is standardized to 100 for the study’s base year of 2006.

CSI differs from crime rate in that crime rate is simply the number of offences compared to the population and that’s not an area Kelowna does well in either.

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This city’s crime rate is among the highest in Canada, with a reported 8,445 Criminal Code offences per 100,000 people in 2016. Compare that to the national average of 5,224 and the provincial average of 7,738.

Kelowna’s top cop says while the numbers can be useful, he takes them with a grain of salt because this city has some unique issues, not the least of which being that tourism inflates the population by 1.6 million over the year.

When those visitors arrive, said Kelowna RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle, it puts pressure on resources and there is an uptick in everything from property crime to traffic violations. When they’re then stacked up against the relatively small population that lives here year round, the statistics offer an unflattering view.

That said, he also sees the CSI offering some useful insights into the city.

“There has been a reduction in violent crime and that’s positive for the community,” said Mundle.

Mundle also said that higher numbers may reflect proactive police work.

“If our officers are more actively out investigating and doing impaired stops that would drive our numbers there,” he said.

Another area where successful policing may skew stats, he said, is in the area of drug possession cases. There have been more cases of meth and cocaine possession in the year that’s passed and Mundle said that shows their “officers are actively out and finding people” that are carrying these substances.

There’s no good way to view fraud and theft statistics.

“We’ve seen an increase of fraud related activities and, as I have been regularly reporting to the city, theft of vehicles and bicycles has been an increasing problem in the community and that has driven (an increase) in the numbers there,” said Mundle.

Mundle said he wants this report to remind people that they should lock up their bikes and their cars.

“This is a significant issue, but it’s preventable,” he said.

From 2015 to 2016, 20 of 33 of Canada’s census metropolitan areas reported increases in their CSI. The largest increases were recorded in the CMAs of Winnipeg (+16 per cent), Regina (+15 per cent) and Brantford (+13 per cent). Winnipeg’s increase was a result of more reported incidents of robbery and breaking and entering. A higher CSI in Regina was primarily due to more incidents of fraud and attempted murder. The CMAs with the largest declines in CSI were Trois-Rivières (-14 per cent) and Victoria (-12 per cent).

As has been the case since 2010, Regina (125.8) and Saskatoon (117.8) were the CMAs with the highest CSIs. These Saskatchewan CMAs were followed in the CSI rankings in 2016 by Edmonton (105.7), Winnipeg (103.9), Kelowna (100.3), Vancouver (94.3) and Abbotsford–Mission (91.4). These seven CMAs also had the highest police-reported crime rates in 2016.

The CMAs with the lowest CSIs continued to be Québec (45.2), Barrie (45.4) and Toronto (47.5), followed by Trois-Rivières (48.7).

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