As city council prepares for Thursday’s special meeting on policing, Penticton has retained its title as the most dangerous city in the Okanagan, according to fresh data from Statistics Canada.
The agency this week released 2020 figures that put Penticton’s crime severity index at 180, nearly double the B.C. average of 96 and well above the Canadian average of 73.
The crime severity index tracks the overall crime rate but assigns greater weight to violent offences. The index has a base value of 100 for 2006.
Penticton’s figure was ninth highest among B.C. municipalities – Williams Lake was tops at 251 – and 14th highest among 325 communities in Canada with populations over 10,000, according to RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter, who noted in a statement that the statistic is just one measure of crime activity.
“Penticton’s high overall CSI rating is fuelled by the excessively high property crime rate in the City of Penticton,” explained Hunter.
“As I have previously stated, a portion of Penticton’s property crime is driven by some of our most vulnerable community members who are suffering from addictions and mental health challenges. It is important to note that not all of our community members who are suffering from addictions and mental health challenges are committing crimes in our community,” continued Hunter.
“The Penticton RCMP continue to work with our community partners including the City of Penticton, Interior Health, BC Housing and other support agencies in an effort to assist some of our vulnerable clients in getting out of their cycle of addictions and theft.”
Elsewhere in the Okanagan, Vernon checked in at 147, Kelowna at 130, West Kelowna at 73 and Summerland at 62.
In Oliver, the rural RCMP detachment had a crime severity index of 109, while the rural Osoyoos detachment was 140.
Penticton has had the highest crime severity index in the Okanagan since 2017. Still, the Peach City’s number for 2020 was down 22% 2019, which was in line with a Canadian trend.
As a whole, the country’s crime severity index declined 8% between 2019 and 2020, which Statistics Canada attributed to widespread societal changes brought on by the pandemic.
City council is set to meet Thursday at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposal to pull $5 million from the local government’s reserves to hire five new RCMP officers as soon as possible and fund their services for the next five years. The meeting is closed to in-person attendance but will be live-streamed on the city’s website.
In 2019 – the most recent year for which data is publicly available – each Mountie in Penticton had an average caseload of 170 files. That was by far the most of any detachment in a B.C. community with a population over 15,000; the next highest was Prince George at 134.
This article has been updated with comments from Supt. Brian Hunter