Penticton was ranked 19th overall in the annual Canada’s Most Dangerous Places list by MacLean’s magazine, but it doesn’t sit well with Penticton-South Okanagan RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager.
Even with four homicides and an increase of fraud offences, according to the MacLean’s five-year change in the Crime Severity Index (CSI), the city has slightly improved from last year’s rank of the 16th most dangerous city. Penticton is the only Okanagan city in the Top 20 on their list, with the next area in the region being Summerland at 24.
“First, the CSI is not an appropriate comparison tool to compare cities across the country. It is meant to show communities where concerns lie so that efforts can be made to target those issues. Comparing a city of 35,000 in B.C. to a city in PQ or the Maritimes is misleading, starting with the methodology which does not factor in location, demographics, industry, unemployment, medical concerns such as mental health, homelessness, addiction rates, educational priorities, etc.,” said De Jager.
The report ranks communities according to the (CSI), a Statistics Canada measure of all police-reported crime, which takes into consideration both the volume and seriousness of offences. The 2017 data, the most current available for the MacLean’s report, was released July 23, 2018.
According to the (CSI) stats in the report, Penticton is at a CSI of 145 (17th overall), which is slightly over double the national average of 70.96. On the violent crime severity index, Penticton is at 99 (42nd in the country), while the national average is 75.25.
The homicide rate in Penticton is listed at 11.13 (incidents per 100,000 population), with the Canadian average at 1.68. The fraud rate in Penticton sits at 461.75 while the Canadian average is 299.05.
De Jager said a “straight-up numerical comparison is misleading at best and sensationalized at worst.”
“The second major issue here lies with population. It is telling that all of the cities in the top 20 are under 50,000 population. From a methodological view, it seems rather odd to label only these smaller cities as ‘dangerous.’ One reason is that crime is not proportional to population. A single prolific offender in a smaller community who goes on a crime spree will have a radical affect on crime rates during that period, whereas the exact same spree will not even register in Vancouver or Toronto.”
Stats that have dropped for Penticton include the assault rate, sexual assault rate, firearms offences, robbery, impaired driving rate, cannabis trafficking or production, cocaine trafficking or production and other controlled drugs trafficking or production. Youth Criminal Justice Act offences have also dropped for Penticton, which is listed at 8.34 while the national average is 16.74.
“The next issue lies with the overall score versus violent crime. We focus on the protection of life and safety, and then on the protection of property. I find it odd that the article uses the term ‘dangerous’ when our Violent CSI, or what one would equate with danger, is actually down to 55. This despite three homicides in Penticton in 2017. Each of these homicides was committed by an offender known to the victim and were in no way random,” said De Jager.
De Jager also questions the weighing of the crime types. He said the top contributor to the score was break and enter and theft from motor vehicle. According to De Jager, there were 399 break and enters — contributing to 29 per cent of the CSI score — and 624 theft from motor vehicle, contributing to eight per cent of the city’s score. In comparison violent crime calls are less than three per cent of the total calls for service.
“What these ratings do not take into account is that our BNEs have dropped by almost 30 per cent since these statistics were collected. Here we are in November, being told Penticton is in the top 20 of CSI, without even factoring the excellent work that has been done in that time,” said De Jager. “Theft from vehicle is one of our priorities for this year as it was last year. The majority of this theft is unsecured items in unlocked cars. Despite reports to the contrary, we still and always have attended these calls for service, but we need the public to protect their property to bring this crime of opportunity down.”
De Jager added that RCMP have placed significant priority on prolific offenders and are seeing the results with a 30 per cent drop in residential break and enters.
“We routinely issue news releases requesting the public’s assistance in helping us solve crime because we know that there are people in the community who know who is responsible for those crimes. We need those individuals to come forward and help us target the small group of individuals who are responsible for the majority of our crimes.”
In comparison, Vernon — ranked number nine last year — is now ranked 73. Kelowna was previously ranked 34, and is now at 142.
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