November 09, 2015 - 6:30 PM
LAKE COUNTRY – A long time resident of Lake Country says crime in his community has increased over the last three months and is the worst he's ever seen.
“There’s been a few waves, like when the Coquihalla first opened up there was a wave of chainsaws and that stuff stolen but it faded away,” says Alan Gatzke of Gatzke Farms. “There has always been the usual summer time stuff but not chain cutters and missing vehicles and B-and-Es on houses. And it’s gotten even worse in the last three or four months."
Gatzke's own fruit stand was targeted three times over ten days last month.
“We do an honour system fruit stand every fall,” he says. “This fall twice the lock got cut off and the money stolen.”
The thieves made off with around $250 over the two thefts, so Gatzke decided to install a 400 pound teller safe at the location. Five days later the chains were cut and the safe moved from the stand.
“They only had partial success,” Gatzke says. “I think it was too heavy for them… they rolled it down the bank but they weren’t able to open it.”
Gatzke found the safe with the money still inside at the bottom of a hill near their farm.
“It looks like it was left in the middle of their operation,” he says. “There appeared to be some blood and skin left behind.”
The safe was recovered on Oct. 20, the same day a group of concerned Lake Country residents held the first meeting of a community policing coalition to help fight what they believe is a growing reputation as an easy place to commit crime.
Gatzke attended the meeting and intends to join a growing number of residents who are taking it upon themselves to police the remote district between Kelowna and Vernon.
Gatzke, 54, who has lived in the same area his whole life, says things are worse now than they’ve ever been. And he has a theory why. He thinks someone has set up shop in town to "fence" the stolen items.
He says he’s heard from police items and credit cards stolen from Lake Country seem to find their way to Vernon. He also says it’s not just Lake Country that is being targeted, but the entire Okanagan.
“There is some higher level stuff going on,” he says. “Some larger vehicles, particularly diesel trucks, that are disappearing. This is happening from Penticton to Vernon.”
Last month, Lake Country RCMP issued a media release warning people to keep valuables out of their vehicles and other steps to avoid making their property easy targets for thieves. Gatzke says he, like others who have come forward warning neighbours to be on the lookout, do not blame police and was happy with the response he got when he reported the three thefts.
“I was pleased in terms of service but I’m not sure there’s even an effort to collect evidence,” he says. “It’s just not high on their list. They’ll write the report and keep an eye out but criminals almost need to catch themselves with their own stupidity.”
That’s why he joined the community coalition and will continue to support police however he can.
“The best solution is increased communication that improves the awareness and also some way for that communication to be shared,” he says. “The Facebook group is a good start but if there’s a pattern like what’s going on today, we need to collaborate and… keep an eye on each other’s back yard. We’ll have more success with that than increasing the police’s budget.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at email@example.com or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015