Michaels: This is a safe community … mostly

“It is how a community deals with all these ever-moving elements that dictates its trajectory.”

Will you get shanked in Kelowna while getting groceries in the middle of the day?

Could you find yourself the target of a politically motivated military attack while strolling down the waterfront?

Seems very unlikely.

Like the 94 per cent of people polled in the City of Kelowna’s most recent Citizen Survey, I think this city is blessedly safe.

But we have some problems illustrated yearly by Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI).

Figures released Monday showed the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area’s CSI to be the 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.

The numbers themselves were influenced heavily by a lot of petty theft, break-ins and the like.

This is blamed on a no-good, hardened group of prolific offenders who ruin everything for everyone.

When we invoke their name, the great and good of this city clutch their pearls and the growing “unwanted element” in this community are derided, further calcifying the us-and-them issues that keep the paranoia running high and social boundaries fixed.

Fact is, Kelowna and every other city has always had crime and they’ve always had pockets of people who lean into it when the going gets tough because there’s no better choice.

The going has become tougher with an ever rising cost of living, a diminished supply of affordable housing and a weak job market. It can be disheartening.

It is how a community deals with all these ever-moving elements, however, that dictates its trajectory.

And despite the stats, it seems as though we’re headed in the right direction.

Mayor Colin Basran pointed out when I interviewed him for the annual crime story that this municipality is working to get people on the right foot through a variety of tools including addiction and mental health services or the homelessness strategy. Affordable housing is always on the agenda and they’ve approved a number condo projects to take the pressure off the rental market.

Time will tell if the strategies pan out, but the fact that we’re not talking about crime as simply an issue for police is heartening.

A lot has fallen onto the plates of municipal governments in the last couple of decades, and our local politicians are doing a good job addressing the growing pains in this city.

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than you get in a lot of other places.

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