Vernon’s assault and theft-related crimes appear to be on the rise through the first half of 2019.
According to the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s second-quarter policing report, there were 155 reported incidents of assault (including domestic violence) from April through June of 2019 – up from 93 in the same time frame last year.
That brings the total number of assaults in the first half of 2019 up to 258 – a 61 per cent increase from 2018’s first half.
Crimes of theft under $5,000 also appear to be on the upward trend. There have been 614 reported incidents of small theft in Vernon so far this year, good for a 55 per cent increase from this time last year.
The city has also seen a 10 per cent rise in reported theft from vehicles. Taking into account the entire list of crimes in the quarterly report, Vernon has seen an increase of roughly six and a half per cent.
The RCMP report does not directly account for the spike in assaults, but it does attribute the increase in property offenses to requests made to the public to report even minimal amounts of property crimes, so as to allow police to have a better sense of the true crime rate.
The report also highlights increases in thefts of bicycles and propane tanks throughout the city.
Vernon city councillor Kelly Fehr agrees that the public has been encouraged to report more often, and adds that if more reporting is taking place, higher crime stats aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Though there may very well be an increase, I think some of that is attributed to both City of Vernon programs and the RCMP being quite successful,” he said.
Fehr explains that the city’s Community Safety Unit, its bylaw office and its Block Watch program have stepped up their efforts to encourage public reporting over the last year.
“These programs are really encouraging people to report everything, because if police don’t have the statistics that show what the true crime rate is, they can’t advocate for further resources,” he said.
“I think that is a positive thing and that is one small piece that shows an increase in these statistics.”
Fehr also points to the fact that the City of Vernon increased funding for both the RCMP and the bylaw department in the last fiscal year.
“There are more boots on the ground, so naturally you should be seeing an increase in crime statistics because people are being caught,” he explained.
Elsewhere in the North Okanagan, Enderby saw a large spike in total crimes with 191 in June – up from 103 the same month last year. This was driven in part by 17 cases of theft under $5,000 that month versus just three in June 2018.