By Salomon Rayek
Last week, the Kelowna RCMP released its new strategy for dealing with crime. It features the hiring of 11 additional police officers this year.
As I scrutinized the numbers, I had to question their supposed strategy. I already know that Kelowna’s crime rate is high and that our city is widely considered to be the new marijuana capital of Canada, leaving Vancouver in second place.
I also know many residents have been victims of crime. What I didn’t know is how shocking the statistics truly are and that the authorities’ approach to this problem doesn’t seem to be serious.
In a community that has 117,000 residents, with more than 18,000 reported crimes in 2011,
of which 18 per cent were violent, do the authorities really think 11 more RCMP officers will make any difference?
This year, one of every seven people will be the victim of a criminal act, out of which one of five crimes will be violent.
To be fair, I should add the official plan also includes the hiring of another 10 officers over the next three years. If we are lucky, these officers will arrive just in time to process the paperwork accumulated by the overwhelmed officers who will be hired this year.
My favourite part of the plan is that it includes a five per cent reduction in calls for service in 2014 and another five per cent in 2015.
What a way to tackle crime.
A five per cent decrease means it will take us 20 years just to cover this year’s crime rate, not allowing for increases due to population growth and drug-related crime that is escalating due to Kelowna’s increasing status as a drug capital.
The RCMP detachment aims to reduce calls, presumably, by decreasing the crime rate and not as a result of frustrated citizens choosing not to report actual crime.
However, it looks like a catch-22. If the first strategy of increasing the numbers of patrols does not succeed in achieving the targeted decrease in crime, then calls for service will not decrease either. Furthermore, how effective are police patrols when the officers spend much of their time watching for speeders instead of looking for criminals or deterring possible crimes anyway?
The staffing increase is well intentioned, but misses the point. A couple more police officers will not make a difference in a city of this size.
There is another more viable option; consider that 90 per cent of crimes are committed by 10 per cent of criminals and that repeat offenders are usually known to police.
This shows that the justice system is not operating properly. Our criminal system is known to be too lenient. In California, they have the three-strikes-and-you’re-out law. There, anyone who commits three felonies has to serve life in jail. Here in B.C., we have people with more than 100 convictions getting arrested and
released yet again. You could call it the 100-strikes-are-not-enough law.
Part of the problem is our prosecutors don’t have sufficient resources to conduct full trials. Defence lawyers are aware of this predicament, so they cut advantageous deals for their clients, with the result that these clients soon reappear out on the streets. So, increasing the number of police officers, and the number of arrests, does not mean the criminals are actually removed from our streets.
To have a shot at decreasing the crime rate, instead of giving money to the RCMP to hire more officers, the money would be better spent on stopping the proverbial revolving door. Our laws need to be strengthened and more prosecutors need to be hired to more effectively deal with repeat offenders.
Some would argue it is just a waste of taxpayer’s money to keep criminals in jail instead of releasing them. To these people I ask, how much is my family’s safety worth?