Kelowna has the highest crime rate in the nation, according to a new report from Statistics Canada – but Mounties in the Okanagan Valley city attribute the distinction to a spike in property-crime offences and are vowing to crack down on prolific offenders.
The report, released Thursday, looks at the volume of police-reported crime – as well as the severity of crime – across Canada.
It found that while nationwide crime rates in 2011-12 have continued a long-term decline, reaching their lowest level since 1972, crime in the Kelowna., B.C., census metropolitan area (which includes Lake Country and West Kelowna) increased by about 6 per cent, resulting in the highest crime rate out of 33 metropolitan areas.
Meanwhile, Toronto reported a 7-per-cent decrease, making it the metropolitan area with the lowest crime rate for the sixth consecutive year.
Kelowna RCMP's incoming officer-in-charge, Inspector Nick Romanchuk, said he is confident in the detachment's ability to address community safety moving forward.
"It is my goal that Greater Kelowna is never again mentioned in a [Statistics] Canada report on crime unless Kelowna is being recognized for significant improvements that have been made," he said at a news conference Thursday. "I believe in aggressive, targeted enforcement directed toward a small number of prolific offenders who are responsible for the vast majority of crime within any community. I've seen the results and they can be dramatic."
The detachment has added 12 new officers since the 2012 statistics were recorded and is expected to add another 10 by 2015, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi said.
The 2012 figures are primarily attributable to property offences, according to the detachment. For example, property crime increased by 13.5 per cent, thefts from motor vehicles by 37.6 per cent and theft of bicycles by 73 per cent. Between 70 and 85 per cent of all thefts from vehicles involved unlocked cars, and about half of the stolen bicycles were not locked up, which spurred police to launch educational campaigns, said Kelowna RCMP spokesman Constable Kris Clark.
Break-and-enters increased by 7.2 per cent, but more than half of that increase is attributed to one prolific offender who moved to West Kelowna from Calgary, Constable Clark said. As well, the detachment undertook "a couple major projects" last year, including a "revinning" operation in which a company was allegedly selling stolen vehicles, he added.
"We took dozens and dozens of stolen vehicles out of there and, literally, each one is a new file," he said. "That certainly adds to the stats."
Meanwhile, Metro Vancouver ranked seventh highest out of the 33 metropolitan areas listed in the Statistics Canada report. Citing a report to the city's police board, Mayor Gregor Robertson noted violent crime in Vancouver proper decreased by 6.9 per cent in 2011-12, ahead of the 5-per-cent decline in B.C. and 3-per-cent decrease Canada-wide.
While property crime increased by 3.7 per cent in 2011-12, it has decreased by more than 20 per cent since 2007 in the city of Vancouver.