February 13, 2013 - 11:59 AM
By Charlotte Helston
A rash of break and enters and thefts from vehicles looks as bad on paper as it does on the streets. When Supt. Reg Burgess presented the RCMP fourth quarter report to city council on Tuesday, he said a spike in criminal code files has tarnished an otherwise positive term.
Crime has been climbing since the third quarter of 2012. "We were hoping last quarter was a blip, but now we have two in a row," Burgess said.
Burgess said the upswing in crime is a local trend involving break and enters and thefts from vehicles. From October to December, residential break and enters increased from 38 in 2011 to 70 in 2012.
Thefts from vehicles hit hardest in October, with 65 in 2012, up from 48 in 2011. Statistics improved in December, with thefts from vehicles decreasing from 39 in 2011 to 29 in 2012.
Burgess said crime always picks up in the winter, but that these numbers are concerning. Use of the bait car program has helped mounties nab vehicle thieves, including two individuals arrested in October. Burgess said the bait car was deployed in response to the large number of thefts from vehicles occurring in the area. The individuals were arrested and charged with theft over $5000. B.C.'s bait car program recently expanded to include bait property—laptops, cell phones, and other electronics embedded with tracking technology to lead police straight to the thief.
But bait houses, and bait businesses are not a reality, and RCMP are asking the community to do their part in keeping thieves away from residences. RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk has asked individuals to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and to report it without hesitation.
Another method of deterring crime is the presence of police out on the town. During the city's budget talks last month, a limit was put on RCMP expenditures in order to keep this year's tax increase at a minimum. Burgess said valuable services like downtown foot patrols and the school liaison might be cut to stay within the spending allowance. He said this would erase many of the RCMP's accomplishments in crime mitigation over recent years. Council said they would explore options to funnel money back to the RCMP so the services could be kept.
Mayor Rob Sawatzky says he isn't concerned about the possible loss of downtown foot patrols during a period of heightened crime.
"(The RCMP) feel it is related to prolific offenders," Sawatzky says, adding he doesn't expect downtown patrols to change anyway.
Options, like taking money out of the Affordable Housing account, are being considered to prevent the loss of services. Sawatzky says finding cash for the RCMP is among council's top priorities, something they have communicated to Burgess.
Sawatzky says the 3.21 per cent jump in criminal code files may sound worse than it really is because Vernon has a low crime rate to begin with.
"With a low crime rate, it doesn't take a lot to raise it," he says.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013