And while many of its goals involve more public participation to lower the risk of crimes that impact the town, nestled within the document submitted to Kelowna City Council on Monday are changes in the way Kelowna RCMP plan on “showing up at our best for every citizen.”
Supt. Kara Triance said, “the principles of customer service — empathy, listening and follow-up” are embedded in their 2021-2024 strategic plan.
One of the notable highlights of these changes is a ‘Start by Believing’ pledge.
Kelowna RCMP came under fire in recent years for the low charge-approval rate, in comparison to cities across B.C., for sexual assault reports in the Okanagan town.
“As your police chief, it is absolutely important to me that we have the trust of the community. And I believe over the last year, that trust and confidence was rocked,” said Triance.
“But, I truly believe in the police officers who are policing this community.”
While this is the first public mention of the pledge since a sexual assault team was created at the Kelowna detachment in 2020, Halifax Regional Police began a #STARTBYBELIEVING campaign in April of 2017 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“Reporting a sexual assault to anyone, let alone police, can be difficult,” Halifax Police said at the pledge launch. “It’s common for victims to fear that they won’t be believed or taken seriously and that they’ll be made to feel ashamed.”
Supt. Tiance said the Kelowna RCMP will commit to a trauma-informed approach across policing units and to be responsive to sexual assault and domestic violence reports.
It is said that 70 per cent of Kelowna RCMP have been trained in and have adopted the ‘Start by Believing’ pledge.
The report also includes a call for quarter-yearly checks on diversity at the senior decision-making level, with the goal of bringing more women, indigenous, Métis, Black and People of Colour and LGBTQ2S+ voices to the discussion.
When it comes to crime ‘hot spots’ in the city, the downtown area and Rutland were highlighted.
The goal is to make public space feel safer, according to RCMP.
The plan is to double foot and bike patrol presence in public spaces and improve response times to crime reports in these two neighbourhoods.
“While law enforcement alone is not the answer, we share in the responsibility of Kelowna citizens feeling safe,” Kelowna RCMP outline. “We also have a role to fulfill in improving residents’ understanding of safety risks and increasing our visibility in shared public spaces.”
Property crime continues to be an issue, one which Kelowna RCMP attribute to societal conditions.
In 2019 and 2020, there were 2,488 thefts from auto, 319 residential break-ins and 622 bike thefts in the town of about 140,000, according to RCMP.
“These crime rates can vary with rates of addictions, among other factors, and the presence or absence of alternate means to support substance use disorders,” the RCMP said.
Local police plan on engaging more on social media to encourage better protection of property.
“Social media can deliver targeted crime prevention messages quickly,” the report stated. “Neighbourhood social networks can also efficiently engage citizens in crime prevention as well as offering the opportunity for us to improve investigations. These networks can serve as modern-day neighbourhood watch programs.”
A Facebook group called Kelowna Alert includes posts about alleged thefts, prowlers and suspicious activity, along with photos and videos.
A 2020 City of Kelowna survey found 83 per cent of citizens who responded were very or somewhat satisfied with police services.
The report states that Kelowna RCMP has 100 general duty officers who respond to calls in shifts seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but does not call for more officers to help meet the needs of the fast-growing community.
Kelowna RCMP said they will reveal more about their four-year plan in the next four weeks.
The plan was presented to city council on Monday, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the new plan is what the city needs.
“I’d say given the reaction from the council, and the fact that it was passed unanimously, the new strategic plan put forward by the superintendent was very welcome by the council,” said Basran.