Penticton was the 19th most dangerous city in Canada in 2018, according to rankings published this week by Maclean’s Magazine, but the mayor is hopeful recent measures are improving public safety.
The rating is based on the crime severity index, which the magazine describes as “a Statistics Canada measure of all police-reported crime, which takes into consideration both the volume and seriousness of offences.”
Penticton scored 146 on the index, well above the Canadian average of 75. The score was pushed up mainly by property crime and impaired-driving offences.
Mayor John Vassilaki didn’t dispute the data in an interview Wednesday, but sought to reassure the public that city staff and politicians are taking the matter seriously.
“I’m not going to fight the perception, but our No. 1 priority for city council is community safety,” he said.
“I know there are still concerns in the community – I’m not going to shy away from that – but we’ve done a heck of a lot to make things better than they were before.
Vassilaki went on to reel off a host of measures, such as hiring additional bylaw officers, preparing to open a downtown office to be shared by bylaw officers and police, a new community safety strategy and steering committee.
The mayor’s also looking forward to the arrival of a new RCMP detachment commander, Brian Hunter, who’s expected to take up his duties in January pending the sale of his home at his current posting on Vancouver Island.
“We think he’s going to follow our lead better than previous superintendents have,” said Vassilaki.
Penticton RCMP spokesman Const. James Grandy suggested the crime severity index is skewed against smaller communities, in which a single prolific offender’s work can have a dramatic impact on crime statistics.
“The RCMP in Penticton and throughout the South Okanagan have seen tremendous success in arresting prolific offenders in each of our communities, who are believed to be responsible for the majority of the crimes taking place,” Grandy said in a press release.
“Our officers remain committed to these efforts of solving crimes and improving our community’s sense of safety, security and overall well-being.
Elsewhere in the Okanagan, Vernon ranked 25th and Kelowna was 35th. Smaller communities, such as Oliver and Summerland, weren’t listed.
The most dangerous city in Canada, according to the list, is Thompson, Man., which has held the spot for three years running.