Penticton is currently seeing an upswing in property crime, with numerous businesses the victims of overnight break and enters, but Supt. Ted De Jager said this is not unprecedented.
“This time of year it’s actually quite common that we get a lot of break and enters, we had the same series last year. As the weather starts getting better, businesses are gearing up for the summer and local prolifics are much more able to manoeuvre,” said De Jager. “People are out on the street more and they’re able to blend in. So it’s not uncommon to see this.”
De Jager said while his team is relatively sure of the identity of at least two individuals involved in multiple recent break and enters, they cannot release identities until they have confirmation. He said the challenge his officers and the Targeted Enforcement Unit are facing is locating these individuals, as they often hide out at different places during the day.
“We know who generally is doing these break and enters, but to say they are related would be a bit of a stretch at this point until we can actually catch them and interview them,” said De Jager. “In most cases, these are targets of opportunity that they’re looking for. The best way to say it is that we have a day job and at night we’re sleeping, (and) they’re the opposite. They’re all in bed during the day, getting ready for their night job, which is crime.”
Mayor John Vassilaki agrees with De Jager’s assessment that these are career criminals, and said he meets with the RCMP frequently to get updates on the ongoing investigations and find out how the city can assist. Vassilaki, owner of the Tiffany’s Boutique Mall on Main Street, has also been a victim of overnight break and enters recently, with thieves gaining access to the mall repeatedly over the span of one week.
“There’s a lot of them that are prolific bag guys, and a lot of them are professional lock pickers. They break in without even making a mark on the door, and we know that because they can’t lock it on the way out, so it’s left open,” said Vassilaki.
According to Vikki Holmberg, co-owner of TechSavers Computer Repair located within the mall, thieves gained access to their store on the evenings of April 27 and 28, and the rest of the mall on the evenings April 27 to May 1.
“The first night, the lock was picked. The second night he brought a buddy to clean us out,” said Holmberg, who took to social media following the break-ins to share her frustrations and concerns.
Both Vassilaki and the Holmbergs upgraded their business’s security systems since then, which De Jager said is the best defence right now. De Jager did note that it can be a hardship for business owners to incur the costs of building repairs as a result of break and enters, not to mention the expense of high-tech security systems, but said it’s a matter of finding balance.
De Jager said the RCMP is “really trying to get our neighbourhoods involved in Block Watch and our businesses with Business Watch” which is “the same program, just different structure.” He said this can be a great deterrent against nighttime criminal activity, but warns that there is a line between this and vigilante justice.
“In a large percentage of vigilante cases, they get the wrong guy so now they’re really in trouble. And it’s because of stereotypes. And the other part is it is almost impossible to get it in court,” said De Jager. “So now we’re really focusing on the damage that you’ve done on this individual.
Currently a petition is being circulated by Chrystina Barnard, the owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply and yet another victim of a recent break and enter and theft, titled Make Penticton Safe Again. Garnering 550 signatures in just three days, the petition asks to redesignate $50,000 slated by the City of Penticton to replace the Christmas lights in order to upgrade security in the downtown and install public security cameras.
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