Rutland is a great area in Kelowna. It has rich amenities, great neighbourhoods and awesome people are part of the reinvention of this town centre. But lately Rutland has been in the news for other reasons.
The recent report delivered by RCMP Supt. Kara Triance showed a startling shift in crime in our community. Crime in Kelowna’s downtown core had dropped by 22%, while calls in Rutland jumped by 27.5% compared to last year.
In Rutland, the concern over rising crime rates is a pressing issue for residents and local authorities alike. The statistics presented by Triance paint a vivid picture of the challenges we face.
While the figures may be alarming, it is important to acknowledge there are commendable efforts being made by the RCMP, Downtown Kelowna Assocition, local officials and the Mayor's Task Force on Crime in addressing those concerns.
Under the vigilant leadership of Triance, the local police have been proactive in tackling criminal activity. The strategies implemented have shown promise in curbing certain types of crime, indicating a positive direction in law enforcement efforts. Moreover, the mayor's task force has been instrumental in bringing various stakeholders together. Their collaborative approach towards understanding and addressing the root causes of crime in Rutland has been a crucial step forward.
The multi-faceted approach, combining law enforcement with community engagement, has been a beacon of hope in these challenging times.
I note that in downtown, the Downtown On Call service run by the Downtown Kelowna Association (DKA) receives a huge number of calls on a monthly basis and serves the core well. In the last month alone, it received more than 575 calls, with only 31 needing referrals to the RCMP.
So, why this shift? I believe, despite these valiant efforts, the issue of rising crime in Rutland is symptomatic of a larger, more deep-rooted problem— inadequate handling of mental health and substance use issues.
For too long, these critical health concerns have been downloaded onto the community with minimal focus on effective treatment and recovery. The escalating crime situation in Rutland can be viewed as a failure of the B.C. government's policies over the last six years. There has been a noticeable lack of effective strategies to combat the root causes of crime, particularly in addressing mental health and substance abuse issues.
The government's oversight in this area has led to an environment where these societal problems have worsened, contributing significantly to the rise in criminal activities. That trend reflects a concerning detachment from the realities faced by communities like Rutland, where the absence of adequate support systems and preventive measures have allowed crime to proliferate. The increase in crime rates has also placed an undue burden on local authorities and communities, who are left grappling with the consequences of these unaddressed challenges.
The correlation between mental health, substance abuse, and crime rates cannot be overlooked.
Individuals struggling with these issues often find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system, both out of desperation and because of being preyed upon - a cycle that is both tragic and preventable.
This is not just a law enforcement issue, it's a societal one that demands a comprehensive solution.
It is imperative we shift our focus towards creating robust support systems for mental health and substance use. That includes increasing access to treatment and recovery programs, which are essential in addressing the cause of many criminal behaviours.
Without that shift in approach, our community will continue to grapple with the consequences of these unaddressed issues.
I heard from residents of Rutland at a town hall this year about their concerns with crime in the community. It was because of that concern that I met with the DKA and Uptown Rutland Business Association (URBA) boards to ask if we could see the Downtown on Call program duplicated in Rutland.
I met with Kelowna’s mayor to solicit support and the idea has been (proposed) to the task force for support as well. I hope a pilot project will be successful, and we will see these supports come to Rutland.
I commend the effort of our local authorities and elected officials in their ongoing battle against crime in Rutland. Their dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed. However, it is crucial to recognize that law enforcement alone cannot bear the brunt of this challenge.
Until something changes provincially, the city will have to continue efforts on the ground to deal with the symptoms, rather than the causes.
My question to you is this:
What do you think the province should do to help with the growing crime in Rutland?
I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call the office at 250-712-3620.