Over 300 people attended a forum in Oliver to discuss possible solutions to what some residents said feels like a growing epidemic of crime in the area.
The event, held on Aug. 28, was organized by Oliver resident Mike Guthrie, who has been advocating for increased police presence and CCTV surveillance systems within the town.
“I think once in a while we have to have an event like this, just to let our officials know how we feel. And I’ve seen tonight just how unhappy and fearful a lot of these people really are,” said Guthrie.
During the first quarter of this year, Oliver saw 24 more incidents of violent crime over the same period last year, which equals a 171 per cent increase. Non-business break-and-enters and vehicle theft both saw 100-plus per cent increases.
Multiple people addressed the crowd including Mayor Ron Hovanes, Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie and Cpl. Christina Tarasoff with the Oliver RCMP.
“I think (we’re dealing with) more known offenders, not for every case (in the town) but for the majority,” said Tarasoff.
Currently, there are two positions vacant with the Oliver RCMP. It is the responsibility of the provincial government to see that these positions are filled, but it was noted at the forum that Canada as a whole is facing a police shortage.
While staffing these positions may help, Tarasoff doesn’t believe it is the answer to addressing crime in the area.
“People can definitely be proactive and lock up their belongings, look after neighbours, (install) outdoor lighting, think about the environment around your house,” said Tarasoff. “But the big driving factor behind these crimes is drug use, and that’s what it boils down to, is getting to the root of that.”
Business owner and Oliver resident Nicole Kriesel shared some data she had found in relation to crime in the area.
“Our (crime) trend at the moment seems to be an increase in theft from vehicle, bicycle theft and property crime. Within this number, without a doubt, there are actual cases of break-and-enter,” said Kriesel. “But there (have been) many preventable cases of opportunist theft — because we forgot to lock our stuff up.”
Two petitions were available to be signed during the forum. One asked the Town of Oliver to install CCTV surveillance systems within the town and the other asked the province to expedite the funding and actions needed to hire the needed police officers for the town.
Mayor Hovanes was glad to see the community coming together to address these issues but warned that not all comments were necessarily helpful.
“The one thing that worries me are the negative comments. Words can truly hurt a community,” said Hovanes. “The comment that the town is doing nothing — it is one thing to comment on me and my council members, we signed up for it, please do it, but don’t pick on the community, (it’s) doing an awful lot. Just look at the room here tonight.”
Whether tangible change will happen as a result of this forum remains to be seen. Mayor Hovanes says he and town council will be attending the Union of BC Municipalities Sept. 10-14 in Whistler where they plan to advocate the “business case” for hiring new officers for the town.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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