Since stepping into the court and crime beat in Penticton about a year and a half ago, it has become very clear that Penticton has a problem with drug-related property crime, but you knew that by now.
Following every few crime stories is a litany of comments and letters throwing the blame on the local RCMP, the justice system, the judges and city council. I hate to incite the old cliche, but when you point a finger, you have three pointing back at yourself.
I’ll say it in plain language, it sucks. I feel for those who have lost property by brazen, drug-fuelled thefts — My $1,000 DSLR camera was stolen out of my vehicle within three months of moving to Penticton.
During a town-hall meeting to address the rise in property crime in Oliver, RCMP superintendent Kevin Hewco said something that always stuck with me: “it’s not like a cop show, I wish it was.”
It’s a message worth repeating. It’s easy to throw blame at the RCMP, the government, Donald Trump or whomever from the high horse of Internet anonymity, but what does this really accomplish? It’s not going to bring your property back. As with most things in life, the more proactive approach usually takes more effort than typing out in all caps that it’s someone else fault.
Police have many a hoop to jump through, I’ve heard media spokesperson for Penticton RCMP Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth describe situations where he knows a suspect is in the wrong, or has stolen property, but he caveats “spidey senses are not admissible in a court of law.”
It’s frustrating for police, it’s frustrating for citizens and everyone but the thief who walks.
It’s also important to remember that those aforementioned hoops are there for a reason. You have to prove someone is guilty, and intrinsic human rights are for everyone, it’s the basis of our justice system. If we start going off feeling we might as well start the Salem witch trials right now.
In the most recent episode of Penticton property crime, golf club thefts are up, getting snatched out of cars with about a dozen sets of high-end clubs stolen in the past week. It’s yet another trend of many. This follows the news that bicycle thefts are up 300 per cent in Penticton over this time last year.
There is something you can do. It’s easy to say the cops aren’t doing their jobs, but it’s responsible to ask what you can be doing to help. As cool as it would be to dawn a cape and cowl and take justice to the streets with a gravely voice, there is a far more pragmatic approach.
Mark your property, whether that’s engraving your driver’s license number on your bike, or even just taking a photo of your bike with your phone to provide to police. Similar steps can be taken for other valuable items. Mark the serial number or take a picture of it, make unique markings, or some form of identification to prove it’s yours. That is the key.
“Not only to get your stuff back for you, but we can’t even charge these individuals. We get information that someone has a bike chop shop on such and such a street. Without serial numbers and some identification, they’re not going to let us wander over looking for a blue Trek bicycle,” said community policing liaison and former longtime officer Rick Dellebuur. It’s a message I continue to hear from police.
“It helps us to be able to get search warrants, it helps us to be able to prosecute these thieves because basically they’re running amok because there are not a lot of consequences. Even though we find somebody we know shouldn’t be riding a $3,000 Trek bike, we’re hesitant to take it from them,” Dellebuur said.
Will this end crime in Penticton? No. But it is one of those situation where if everybody does it, if we don’t let apathy and anger sink in, there is a legitimate dent to be made by we the people. Stay vigilant, but don’t be a vigilante.
Dale Boyd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.