Superintendent Ted de Jager said he is still reviewing recent crime stats, but they can be misleading. Western News file photo

Penticton crime rate highest in Valley

Penticton’s top cop says stats only paint a partial picture

Along with having one of the highest Crime Severity Index ratings in the Okanagan Valley, Penticton also tops the list when it comes to the tally of reported crimes.

The overall crime rate compared to population across B.C. declined last year, but in Penticton, it continued to climb for the third year in a row.

Excluding traffic violations, there were 4,419 criminal code violations reported in Penticton last year, according to the annual Juristat article released by Statistics Canada this week. That translates to about 13,623 incidents per 100,000 population; using that same standardized population, the province has a rating of 7,738.

Other South Okanagan commwunities are all below the provincial average: Oliver, 7,902; Osoyoos, 7,510; Keremeos, 7,022 and Summerland, 5,636. Kelowna comes in at 10,126 and Vernon, 12,668.

The Crime Severity Index, also released this week, put Penticton ahead of the provincial average with an index of 145.92, the highest in the Okanagan Valley except for Vernon (156.99). The CSI tracks not only the change in volume of a particular crime but the relative seriousness of that crime in comparison to other crimes.

Related: Penticton gets high crime severity rating

Superintendent Ted de Jager, the detachment commander for Penticton, declined to specifically comment on the CSI statistics, saying more time was needed to evaluate them.

“CSI is just one measure we use to gauge where we need to target enforcement and set priorities. We also use crime rates and police workload stats. Looking at any one of these on their own can be very misleading,” said de Jager in an email.

He explained that the CSI can only be used as part of the assessment, dealing with variables like sentencing rates and actual reported occurrences.

“One thing it does not capture is proactive work. For instance, in the last year, we have been actively targeting prolific and sometimes violent offenders. This could contribute to a rise in CSI, but as a result of good work,” said de Jager. “The intent in targeting these individuals is to lower calls for service and the crime rate, thereby allowing police to investigate more serious crimes and increase community engagement and proactive work.”

De Jager said that less than four per cent of the calls for service in Penticton and the region are classified as violent crimes, but since they have a higher weighting, they can contribute to a higher CSI. That’s even though, he explained, the majority of those violent crimes are the result of a known offender or lifestyle.

“Much of the angst in a community is due to the perception of crime as opposed to actual safety,” said de Jager. “Our highest single crime type that affects the most people in Penticton is theft. The majority of that is preventable, although some people who do everything right may still become victims.”

The Juristat figures also show the majority of Penticton’s high crime count comes from property crimes: 8,903 per 100,000 population. Violent crimes show at 1,497, still higher than the provincial average }of 1,139.

“Since this (theft) affects the most people, it can understandably lead to a perception that crime is rampant and therefore the community is not safe. That is exactly why we devote so much effort to the very few prolific offenders who are causing the majority of crime,” said de Jager.

“In reality, the majority of violent crime is committed by known offenders against people known to them, including domestic violence. This does not mean robbery and other types of violent crime will not occur, however, they are by far the lowest crime type we experience in our South Okanagan communities. Given the seriousness of these types of crimes, we always put full effort into solving them when they do occur.”

Related: Top cop draws crowd for crime talk