By Charlotte Helston
Word of looting at a Vernon apartment building isn't being corroborated by reports to the RCMP of items stolen.
When the Capri Gardens apartment complex on 35th Avenue filled with smoke and flames Sunday evening, 75 tenants were evacuated and put up in a hotel overnight. In the rush to exit the building, doors were left ajar, and valuable items left out in the open.
"No one had a chance to secure their stuff," Onside Restoration worker Diane Prince says.
Prince told InfoTel News she caught a man who had snuck into the building after it was emptied out.
"I knew no one was allowed in," she says. She took a photo of the suspicious man and passed it on to the police.
Later, she heard two laptops had gone missing, and another couple rooms had been rifled through.
But RCMP have only received one report of a stolen computer, and spokesperson Gord Molendyk wonders whether that should be considered looting at all.
"With looting, you imagine individuals taking armfuls of stuff, here that was not the case," Molendyk says. "One individual has come forward saying on the night of the fire she saw someone climb onto her patio and enter her apartment. Later, she said found cash and a computer missing."
No other reports have been made, and Molendyk says on it's own, the theft doesn't constitute looting. In fact, a man apprehended by police for trespassing at the apartment isn't even being charged with theft.
The 33-year-old man, who is known to police, claimed he was looking for someone's cap. The man is facing charges of possession of a controlled substance for carrying crack cocaine, as well as charges for breaching the conditions of his probation.
Molendyk says the man was not in possession of any items reported stolen.
In general, Molendyk says thefts from evacuated buildings are uncommon, albeit unfortunate, incidents.
"We have seen it before," Molendyk says. "There are those who make a living out of depriving honest people. They seize the moment and steal when they see an opportunity."
Most residents have now returned to their apartments, and the fire has been deemed accidental, with no sure tale of how it started. Tenants in the three units most affected by the fire will have something of a longer wait before moving back in. Damage is estimated from anywhere between $200,000 to $400,000.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call (250)309-5230.