News

Kelowna no longer country's crime capital

When he was first named this city's top cop, Supt. Nick Romanchuk said he wanted to rid Kelowna of the dubious distinction of being Canada's crime capital.

And, if a report released Wednesday by Statistics Canada is any indication, he delivered on his word.

The country's statistical agency reported that Kelowna's crime rate dipped 12 per cent from 2012; dropping it from first to third in a nationwide crime ranking.

Of more relevance than the overall rate, perhaps, is Statistics Canada's crime severity index.

Statistics Canada employs that tool to gauge not only overall crime rates, but also the seriousness of criminal violence.

That rate dropped locally by 22 per cent from the previous year, while non violent crime dropped nine per cent.

The reason for the lower rates can be chalked up to  fewer break-and-enters, robberies,  motor vehicle thefts and attempted murders. That dip offset year-over-year increases in homicide and forcible confinement. (refer to accompanying chart in the paper edition of the Cap News for numbers.)

Stepping back further to look at an eight-year average, the picture is even better. Violent crime on city streets fell 34 per cent and property crime 36 per cent, the statistics show.

Although there have been improvements, the Crime Severity Index rating of 92.6  and the crime rate  of 7,680 per 100,000 residents are both above national and provincial averages.

Overall, however, Romanchuk called the new report a good news story, noting that a concerted effort to change the model of policing has paid off.

"The biggest thing  is that we've changed our crime reduction model," Romanchuk said. "It's more intelligence led, research based and accountability driven. So, we direct our resources to those issues that place the community most at risk for increased crime."

The city's most prolific offenders were made aware of that change in tack.

Romanchuk explained that close tabs have been kept on the courthouse regulars.

If they breached a court order, they'd be kept to account and hauled back into the system before they could commit another crime.

"At any given time we have a list of prolific offenders that's somewhere between 75 to 80 people long," said Romanchuk. "It sounds like a lot but for a city this size, it's not out of the ordinary. We've paid a lot of attention to those people and that's one of the ways we've used to impact crime."

Local policing has also become more research based in the year that's passed.

"We're trying to work a lot smarter as opposed to harder," he said. "We're doing the things that will have the greatest impact on crime. One of the things I said last year is that we have to stop being everything to everybody. The no-call-too -small mentality had to change."

And, for the most part it has.

No longer will police use their resources to fish a cat from a tree.

"We're like everyone else, we have limited resources and we have to use those resources effectively," he said.

Since 2011 Kelowna's police force has expanded by 19 officers. Romanchuk will likely ask city council for more when it's time to deal with the municipal budget. He was tight-lipped on what that request would be.

Nationwide, the crime rate fell by eight per cent over the previous year in 2013, according to police-reported crime numbers released today by Statistics Canada.

Reports of some offences did go up last year, however, including extortion, child pornography, aggravated sexual assault, sexual violations against children and identity fraud.

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