One of every 10 criminal offences in Kelowna takes place downtown, city councillors heard Monday.
More police are being deployed downtown in the early morning and late-evening hours to help combat crime, Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance says.
"It is clear to me that this is where we need to be putting a significant number of uniformed officers to respond to calls," Triance told councillors during a review of 2020 crime trends and statistics.
Foot patrols and bike patrols will be enhanced in the downtown core, particularly during the busy summer months, council heard.
Triance fielded questions from councillors concerning topics such as police efforts to curb weekly anti-mask rallies in downtown Kelowna, promotion of diversity and inclusiveness values among RCMP members, drug decriminalization, and traffic enforcement.
"It feels less likely that if somebody is speeding in Kelowna that they'll be pulled over now compared to 10 years ago," Coun. Ryan Donn said, adding he would like to see more information on the number of traffic tickets given out by police.
Mayor Colin Basran invited Triance to discuss what he said was the "impracticality" of police trying to fine every single person who attends one of the regular Saturday afternoon anti-mask rallies taking place downtown in violation of public health orders against mass gatherings.
Triance said police have chosen to focus on the individuals who organize such rallies rather than ticket individual participants. If the organizers do not pay the tickets they are given, Triance said, it's possible they could face further legal action.
Coun. Brad Sieben asked if business owners should call 911 should they be having difficulty with patrons or refuse to wear masks, or are otherwise disobeying public health orders inside a shop, restaurant, or pub.
"That is a time to call police and we will respond and be there to begin an enforcement action," Triance said.
Asked her views on the decriminalization of drugs, Triance said she favoured such an approach for individuals who have serious addiction or mental health problems. But she said there should always be enforcement against those who engage in drug trafficking.
In 2020, Triance said, one of the Kelowna RCMP's strategies was to crack down on bike theft. The use of "bait bikes", similar to bait cars long deployed by police, resulted in the arrest of 10 people, she said. Bike theft overall in Kelowna last year was down 20 per cent compared to 2019, council heard. One offender was charged with stealing three bikes, one worth $10,000, in just three days.
Reports of auto theft were down 24% last year in Kelowna, and home break-ins were down 26%. But assaults were up 17%, threats and harassment complaints were up 41%, and cases of domestic violence rose 15%.