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Higher priority must be placed on crime

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Last week, the Kelowna
RCMP warned people to be on guard as the number of house break-ins and car and bike thefts skyrocketed.
I didn't give it much thought until we wanted to go out for dinner downtown.
Besides driving around trying to find a parking spot, we witnessed people doing drugs on Leon Avenue, young men peeing on a building and people fighting in the park. Is this supposed to be a "family oriented" city?
I was disheartened. We left downtown and headed back to the suburbs.
How many other people have felt the same way? I wonder if tourists feel like coming back after witnessing these and other dubious acts.
I shouldn't be surprised, though. We've all seen the statistics: Kelowna has one of the highest crime rates in Canada.
How many of us are living in fear, afraid to go out in case our houses get robbed? How many people no longer go downtown because they are put off by crime or drug use? How many people are wasting a lot of money buying security devices?
We all want a safe city for our kids, a place where they can play hockey and basketball with other kids, where we can enjoy an evening out without fear. Instead, here in Kelowna, we should all be concerned.
It is not only theft that is occurring, but also violent crime associated with the drug industry. Today, you might be afraid of somebody robbing your home during your absence. But what's next?
Home invasions like Vancouver? Or more, broad-daylight, gang shootings in public?
If you are not serious about tackling crime, as history shows, it escalates.
But, instead of actually arresting criminals, our police issue warnings, scaring us to stay home and be careful.
I don't blame them: it is much safer and easier to deal with a "traffic offender" than to chase down an actual criminal. They might be dangerous.
Dealing with real criminals is a pain. The focus on traffic infractions also helps put more money in city coffers. God knows we need it.
As an example, I am aware of a case where a professional shoplifter was caught by a mall security guard with thousands of dollars of stolen items. She was handed over to the RCMP for prosecution.
What happened? In spite of a signed confession and several witnesses, Crown counsel decided not to lay charges.
And now, the RCMP want a comfy $43-million building so they can count their traffic tickets in comfort.
Police should focus on making our community safer by investigating crimes and catching criminals. They don't need a new building with fancy offices to do this.
The city should also be doing what it can to fight crime.
What is the point of revitalizing the downtown core if many people are uncomfortable going there?
Most property crime is committed by people who are desperate, either because they are drug addicts or because they have no money. Both these issues can be addressed with thoughtful planning, such as supporting addiction recovery centres instead of letting them close for lack of funding and giving that money to the ballet or symphony.
The city should promote economic growth rather than spend money on frivolities. That, with getting its priorities straight, is the way to tackle crime.
The RCMP should be ashamed of asking residents to give up their freedom and security because they can't do what they are paid, were trained and hired to do: ensure our community is safe.
Salomon Rayek is a Kelowna resident and former executive editor of the Jewish Tribune. Email:
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