RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager at a recent open house event. De Jager said in city council chambers on Tuesday that perception plays a big part in the idea that Penticton is unsafe. Western News file photo

Penticton not an unsafe city, according to RCMP superintendent

RCMP superintendent says statistics are misleading

RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager’s says an increase in violent crime isn’t reflective of how safe Penticton is.

De Jager’s latest report to council, the final one for 2018, shows an increase of 20 per cent in violent crime.

Part of that increase, he said, is a change in reporting — items like harassing phone calls are now counted under the violent crime heading.

The majority of violent crime, he said, is related to the lifestyle of people experiencing and committing it.

“The majority of that violent crime has to do with known offenders, known to each other or to us,” said De Jager. “The notion that it (Penticton) is unsafe, even if that is driven by a national news magazine and their view of CSI (crime severity index), is false.”

Penticton was ranked 19th overall in the annual Canada’s Most Dangerous Places list by MacLean’s Magazine.

Related:Penticton still ranks in the Top 20 most dangerous places in Canada

While she didn’t say she felt Penticton was an unsafe city, Coun. Katie Robinson challenged De Jager on his interpretation.

“As someone who has lived here for 20 years, it is not as safe as it used to be,” said Coun. Katie Robinson.

“There are a lot of people that have grave concerns about their safety.”

De Jager said perception plays a big part in the idea that Penticton is unsafe and elaborated on how the Crime Severity Index shouldn’t be used to rank cities.

“It is not an effective comparison and the Crime Severity Index was never intended to be used that way. I don’t put much stock in that comparison, I never have,” said De Jager. “Crime is not proportional to population. It is never going to be a fair comparison.”

De Jager said property crime remains an RCMP focus. Break and enters to businesses in the community are up by 25 per cent, compared to last year, but break and enters to cars and homes are both down by a similar amount.

“Our hope is that more and more as we move forward, those colors shade green rather than red,” said De Jager saying the drop in break and enters is partly due to the RCMP focus on going after prolific offenders.

“Our challenge is B&E (on) business,” said De Jager, adding that a big part is education, and the steps that businesses are taking, like security cameras, are starting to pay off.

“Last night, we arrested a very prolific offender, who is responsible for multiple B&E business,” said De Jager.

Mayor John Vassilaki also challenged De Jager, saying the RCMP needed to do more to reassure the community.

“I can assure you that people in the downtown area and surrounding areas are terrified,” said Vassilaki. “You’re not visible. That is the biggest complaint I get from the people of Penticton.

“In order to feel safe, they have to know the police are there to protect them. What they are asking for is boots on the ground. For all that money the taxpayers of Penticton are putting forward, they need to feel protected.”

De Jager said a full discussion of the mayor’s comment should be conducted behind closed doors, but did link visibility to the resources the RCMP has available.

“I can drive police cars up and down downtown all day long, but then I am going to ask what you don’t want me to do,” said De Jager.

De Jager explained that last summer, during the city’s pushback against downtown problems, the RCMP spent 500 hours on foot patrols and plan to do the same next summer.

“We will continue to increase our visibility. If they are feeling terrified in the downtown core, the statistics … don’t support that,” said De Jager.

Looking at the top 10 calls for service, the theft category topped the list, with 1,461 calls. But abandoned 911 calls took second place with 1,228 incidents, which De Jager said accounted for about 10 per cent of the total number of calls.

“That’s a police car rolling to a butt-dial,” said De Jager, explaining that the majority of the calls turn out to be accidental dialing.

Coun. Campbell Watt was concerned about the amount of RCMP time being used, especially responding to calls like theft from cars, which De Jager has previously identified as a preventable crime.

“I’d almost like to see us create a bylaw that tickets unlocked vehicles,” said Watt.

In his report, De Jager wrote that “Much of the crime in communities can be prevented through increased vigilance in locking doors, securing valuable items and looking out for our neighbours.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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