Provincial action on prolific property offenders welcome
Today’s Provincial Government announcement to begin work on finding remedies for prolific offenders in B.C. communities was welcomed by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran as a step toward improving citizens’ sense of safety and confidence in the justice system.
“Kelowna Council, RCMP, residents and businesses are all frustrated by the current state of affairs,” said Mayor Basran. “Kelowna’s high property crime rates are attributable in large part to prolific offenders. That’s why it was great for me to stand alongside Ministers Eby and Farnworth together with Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, to ensure a holistic, multi-ministerial government approach is taken to tackle crime in our communities.”
Persistent and prolific property offenders have a negative and costly impact on our community and our businesses. Their offending puts extreme pressure on our policing resources, despite our continual significant investments in the RCMP, and erodes individuals’ sense of safety and the public trust in our justice system.
In December 2021, Kelowna RCMP identified 15 people who had 1,039 negative contacts with police in the first 11 months of 2021; that’s about three contacts with police every two weeks for each of them. One example of many provided to the Ministers is an offender in Kelowna who, since 2016, generated 346 RCMP files and received 29 convictions for property crime and assault offences. This person has “no-go” conditions to 11 businesses yet is known to be routinely released with conditions and continues to re-offend.
“BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) statistics reveal it is receiving fewer files to review, taking longer to conclude those files, approving police recommended charges less often, and forwarding fewer cased to the courts where fewer people are found guilty and stays of proceeding are increasing,” said Darren Caul, Director of Community Safety. “This data indicates a system that is under resourced and under strain, which leads to frustrated communities, discouraged police officers, a lack of accountability for those who commit crimes and reduced confidence in our justice system.”
The City sees the B.C. governments recent announcement to establish complex care facilities to address those whose criminal activity is driven by addictions and mental health issues as a good start and great example of the evolving collaboration between municipalities and the Province. However, these added resources are not in place today and not all prolific property offenders require or will accept voluntarily treatment or supports. Alternative, mandatory measures must be considered.
“This is a complex issue and we need health and justice, together, responding to stop these individuals from constantly reoffending,” said Mayor Basran.
The Kelowna RCMP contract budget has increased 84% from $27.9 million in 2016 to an estimated $51.4 million in 2022. These costs are fully funded through taxation to residents.
“We know we are doing our part to address safety concerns in our city, and we also know that systematic changes need to happen at the provincial level to truly address some core concerns about the administration of justice and public safety,” said Mayor Basran. “Today’s announcement is a clear indication that opportunities to work together with the Province can lead to meaningful changes and improvements.”