BC’s Okanagan is experiencing a surge in violent rural crime, newly released RCMP statistics show.
According to Penticton RCMP detachment Supt. Brian Hunter, an increase in violent crimes such as assaults and threats have been especially concerning.
“It’s concerning, the level of violence happening in the community,” Hunter told the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board last week.
Violent crimes specifically in rural areas have increased by 10%, with a greater increase of 18% in the city region.
Meanwhile, the incident rate of uttering threats has also jumped by 63% in comparison to last year. Break and enters were also higher this year by 24%.
According to Hunter, the “pandemic effect” and the region’s homelessness issues have contributed to the worrying increase.
A high quantity of calls were found to be related to a controversial homeless winter shelter located on Winnipeg St in Penticton, BC. According to the RCMP, police responded to 290 calls at the shelter in the first quarter of 2021.
In April, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins introduced a bill to the House of Commons to address the issue of rural crime.
Bill C-289 hopes to alter the Criminal Code to add as an aggravating circumstance evidence that a crime was directed at somebody who was “vulnerable because of their remoteness from emergency services and, for the purposes of some offences, the fact that a person carried, used or threatened to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon.”
“Rural Canadians too often don’t feel safe in their own homes. Many have been victimized so often they’ve given up reporting property crime. It is often difficult for people to get affordable insurance if they can get it at all,” said Calkins in the House of Commons.
“My constituents are tired of being victims, they’re tired of the revolving door of the justice system, and of crime not being taken seriously. They are losing faith in the justice system, because too often it puts criminals before victims and their families.”