WARNING: This story contains information some readers may find distressing.
The number of sex crimes reported to Kamloops Mounties in 2022 is up by more than 50 per cent over figures from five years ago, according to police data.
The Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre also says it’s seen steady growth in recent years in terms of the number of people reporting incidents and looking for services.
But that growth might not mean more sexual assault is taking place in the community, according to KSACC’s interim co-ordinator.
“I think it’s still hugely underreported and under-acknowledged, but I think that there is a better sort of social understanding about how pervasive these things are, and even what constitutes the crime of sexual assault,” Jenn Johnson said.
“I think it has more to do with the fact that more people are probably feeling empowered and comfortable to report — maybe feeling more hopeful that they will get good results — and less about there being more actual instances.”
Castanet Kamloops asked police for data on reported sex crimes and the resulting charges going back five years. The numbers show a strong upward trend.
In 2022, 215 sex crimes were reported to police in Kamloops — an increase of 57 per cent over 2018 figures. Of those allegations, 42 led to criminal charges.
The detachment recorded 137 reports in 2018, 42 of which resulted in charges. There were 181 in 2019, 26 of which resulted in charges, and 177 in 2020, 33 of which resulted in charges.
The highest number in the last five years was recorded in 2021, which saw 228 reports, 52 of which led to criminal charges.
Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Todd Wiebe, the detachment’s plainclothes commander, said sex crimes are often inherently difficult to investigate. He said the spectrum ranges from cases with solid witness statements, DNA and video to historical allegations where valuable evidence has been lost to time.
“In some cases we’re not able to substantiate it — if it’s investigated and maybe it didn’t happen,” he said.
“The system we work on is led by evidence. These cases can be difficult, too, because they can be very personal and by their very nature they’re happening in private places. A lot of times you’re left with just the two people’s words.”
The Kamloops detachment’s sex crimes unit was formed in 2021 and only became fully staffed last fall. Wiebe, who oversees the three-officer team's operations as part of his duties, said he believes it will result in more thorough investigations moving forward.
“What I expect out of it is there will be higher quality investigations coming out for these offences. In theory, that could produce more charges,” he said.
“Having a dedicated sex crimes unit does increase our capacity to investigate things, and it also increases our ability to sort of mentor and coach and provide oversight for some of our newer members to the detachment.
“So I feel confident in saying that our service delivery will improve, and that’s my hope and expectation. Can I say for sure that it’s going to result in more charges? No, I can’t make that leap.”
Wiebe also said the unit is making inroads with agencies like KSACC.
For her part, Johnson said she expects numbers will continue to rise locally — at least for now.
“In the short term, it would probably be better to see these numbers going up, and I’d also like to see the number of charges going up,” she said.
“Ultimately, the most ideal scenario is that the numbers go down because there is less sexual assault happening.”