The crime severity index in B.C. has gone up four per cent since last year, according to data from Statistics Canada, with the Kelowna, B.C., census metropolitan area (CMA) having the second highest crime severity rating in the country.
The crime severity index is a number generated by Statistics Canada. It combines both the number of police-reported crime incidents per 100,000 people along with how severe the crimes were.
It’s the second straight year that Kelowna has topped the charts in crime rankings. Not only does it have the second-highest crime severity index, it also has the highest crime rate out of Canada’s 34 CMAs.
Police in Kelowna say it’s all in how you look at the data.
According to the Kelowna RCMP, property crime continues to drive the Kelowna CMA’s crime severity index.
In a written statement, RCMP communications adviser Ryan (Sencar) Watters said that in 2022 this included theft from vehicles, shoplifting, fraud, break and enter and theft.
The RCMP statement also focused on the area’s crime rate, as opposed to the crime severity index, and pointed out that the City of Kelowna is different from the CMA — which lumps the city in with several other towns.
For example, Watters noted that if you take the City of Kelowna on its own and cut the towns of Lake Country, Peachland and West Kelowna out of the picture, its crime rate ranks 37th in B.C., which is far lower than Williams Lake, Penticton and Prince George.
RCMP Supt. Kara Triance focused on the fact that the rate of crime in the census metropolitan area of Kelowna actually decreased from 11,904 per 100,000 people in 2021 to 11,323 in 2022.
“I am really pleased to report since the release of the 2021 report last year, we have seen a steady decrease in crime in almost every area of violent and non-violent crime,” she said in a statement.
Homicides drive B.C.-wide numbers
For B.C. as a whole, the crime severity index has gone up.
When comparing 2012 to 2022, it has increased by six per cent, says Statistics Canada analyst Warren Silver, and when comparing 2022 to the year before, it’s up by four per cent.
At the same time, the number of crimes per 100,000 people in B.C. — the crime rate — went down six per cent between 2012 and 2022 and decreased by two per cent from 2021 to 2022.
A rise in homicides is the reason the crime severity index is up, Silver said.
“One of the things that has been driving the change from last year is an increase in homicides,” he said.
In 2022, there were 155 homicides in B.C., 30 more than in 2021, when there were 125. The rate of homicides per 100,000 people also increased to 2.9 in 2022, from 2.4 in 2021, and both the rate and number of homicides in B.C. in 2022 were the highest they’ve been in the past decade.
“Homicide is about the most severe type of offence you can have,” he said, explaining that even though the rate of crimes per 100,000 people in B.C. has dropped, the homicides pushed the crime severity index up.
Silver said there has been an increase in homicides across the country, and 25 per cent of those deaths were gang-related, although he did not have the breakdown for gang-related deaths by province on hand.
“About 82 per cent of those [homicides in Canada] were committed with a firearm, most often a handgun,” he said.
B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth both declined to be interviewed for this story.