Escalating crime in quiet Shuswap community has residents feeling on edge | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Escalating crime in quiet Shuswap community has residents feeling on edge

A house that residents in the community of Scotch Creek complained about has been torn down. The house is located on Hillam Road.
September 19, 2019 - 7:00 AM

SCOTCH CREEK - Some residents in the small community of Scotch Creek are breathing a temporary sigh of relief after a troublesome house was torn down recently, but some believe the serenity won’t last long.

Last week, a house located on Hillam Road in the rural North Shuswap community was knocked down after it appears to have been taken over by squatters. Chase RCMP said they were worried about vigilantism after the house was intentionally set on fire earlier this month.

A few days before the arson incident, police say a group of residents went over to the property to confront the occupants of the home in an effort to look for stolen property. Chase RCMP say the alleged victims heard a loud noise resembling a shotgun blast come from within the residence and a man yelling at the group to leave the property.

An unknown man was then seen carrying a shotgun and walking towards the group of people who had retreated to the roadway. The male walked back into the house and no shotgun was ever found on scene.

All that remains on the property today are demolished piles of the house after a group of locals contacted the owner of the property to get permission to destroy the home that had been vacant for years until about a month ago.

“One of the locals knew the homeowner from Vancouver and he basically said ‘knock it down’ so we organized an excavator to come down,” one resident said who lives nearby and did not wish to give his name to

Another resident and co-owner of The Scotch Creek Hub restaurant, Mark Lagore, has lived in the area for five years and began noticing suspicious behaviour a few weeks ago.

“We haven’t had to lock our doors or anything in the five years we have been here until about a month ago,” he says. “It was strange because we started noticing a number of vehicles going in and out (of the house) all day.”

Lagore says he would notice people coming to the house late at night, using flashlights to find the driveway that is treed on both sides.

“I hadn’t seen any activity there until a month ago that’s why I thought it was awfully strange,” he says. “We would see vehicles driving by slow and honking their horns and we would just sit on our deck and watch.”

He says many residents had noticed an increase in thefts from their property. Even at their own restaurant they had a pressure washer and lights stolen.

Despite the demolition, Lagore says it's the people who were squatting in it that are the problem and he’s not sure if they have left the area. The night the shotgun blast was heard, police responded with the South East District Emergency Response Team and put nearby residents on lockdown for several hours.

Even with the heavy police presence, residents noticed people were back at the house the very next morning.

“It’s just not a good feeling,” Lagore says. “I keep everything locked up now.”

This isn’t the first time unfamiliar faces have caused problems in the area and some of the residents feel it’s only getting worse.

“It just seems like there are more junkies than there ever have ever been and they are all over the place,” he says. “It’s been going on for years. There is really nothing that’s being done.”

And residents of the community aren’t the only ones feeling defeated, according to Chase RCMP Sgt. Barry Kennedy.

“It’s frustrating for the police as well because we would love to catch the bad guys,” Kennedy says. “There are always properties that we are aware of and we can always say that X is going on at that property but the fact that we know, isn’t necessarily enough to get us onto the property to get effective changes.”

It’s a long process to get police action, but Kennedy says the residents need to phone the police and not take matters into their own hands when conflicts arise.

“The community are the eyes and ears here and when they talk about it amongst themselves that is of zero benefit when it comes to (police) trying to get a search warrant or going to the province asking for thousands of dollars to work a project,” Kennedy says.

He explains how residents reporting suspicious activity can give police investigational leads.

“If you notice that the people that currently live across the street don’t have jobs but there are constantly trailers, skidoos and high-end pick up trucks going on that property, we need to know about it,” he says. “If (residents) just talk amongst themselves then come to us and say ‘well you never go on that property’ it’s because you never told us,” he says.

Police issued a statement last week saying they were worried about residents taking matters into their own hands. It's not something police condone and it's extremely dangerous, Kennedy says. 

“I get (residents) are frustrated and they want to see results right away but the reality is it just doesn’t work that way and that’s the system we have,” he says. “So every time somebody phones in, it’s not falling on deaf ears, it’s building and building our case.”

He explains how earlier this summer, Chase RCMP recovered $300,000 worth of stolen property from a residence near Scotch Creek. 

Even with the house being torn down, Lagore believes the problems haven’t left the small community.

“I don’t think we will be getting rid of them any time soon, we just have got to lock our doors and stay safe,” he says. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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