Kelowna Police Say They Aren’t Targeting Cannabis

Kelowna police said, despite having Canada’s highest per capita rate of cannabis possession charges, residents of the city shouldn’t worry about being targeted.

Statistics Canada numbers showed that Kelowna topped a list of 34 other cities in Canada for cannabis charges – 250.51 charges for every 100,000 persons. The average in the country is 79.

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Nick Romanchuk said the city isn’t targeting recreational users, but rather a small group of people causing the most crime in the community.

“It’s pretty easy to find someone smoking a joint in Kelowna but we’re not after the low-hanging fruit,” Romanchuk said.

When the numbers were initially released Romanchuk said “that means we’re working hard.”

“People have to understand how those stats work,” Romanchuk said. “It’s all police driven and a reflection of enforcement.“

Romanchuk said that to reduce street crime, Kelowna police will charge certain repeat offenders with whatever they can to disrupt their operations.

“We know a lot of the criminals in the downtown core are involved in the drug trade, stealing bikes, or breaking into premises,” Romanchuk said. “This is a way of targeting them. They can’t commit crimes when they are in jail.”

Romanchuk said Kelowna police encounter drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine more often than they do cannabis.

According to Statistics Canada, Kelowna also leads the country in drug offences, with 829 charges per 100,000 people in 2014. The next highest rate is Gatineau, with 482.

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” Romanchuk said. “For Vancouver and other communities [targeting prolific offenders] may not work, it may not be the silver bullet, but it works for us right now and has helped improve our crime stats.”