The problem of crime in Penticton is a difficult one to solve (Penticton not an unsafe city, according to RCMP superintendent, Dec. 19, Western News).
Most areas of Canada are grappling with this challenge which is being fuelled by the opioid drug crisis and a huge number of other problems. Whether or not the statistics reported in MacLean’s magazine truly represent the situation in Penticton is difficult to say, as experts differ on the meaning. Without a doubt, both the problem and the solutions are complex and multi-dimensional.
However, our mayor’s public attack on RCMP Superintendent Ted De Jager will surely not solve the difficult issues we are facing. It was shocking to read of the disrespect shown to De Jager during his recent report to council. If we are to teach our children to respect the police, then surely our mayor and council must be the first to model appropriate behaviour. Inflaming the issues by describing “terrified citizens” is out of proportion and unhelpful. Neither will vague, unverifiable statements such as “it’s not as safe as it used to be,” get us anywhere.
Crime, its prevention and punishment is a multi-layered problem with societal, political and cultural roots. The origins of crime lie in poverty, lack of education, abuse, drug abuse, lack of meaningful employment, housing needs and mental health issues. Law and order is only one prong of the tools necessary to deal with the challenge and the police cannot be expected to solve all of these problems.
Instead of attacking the RCMP, our mayor and council (and indeed all of us) need to be asking how we can work together to make our beautiful city a better place to live. Showing respect doesn’t mean we will not hold the RCMP accountable as we must always do, but it does give us a meaningful place to start.