'Shady characters' who loot during evacuations should face stiffer penalties, says West Kelowna mayor - InfoNews

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'Shady characters' who loot during evacuations should face stiffer penalties, says West Kelowna mayor

Gord Milsom
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook
May 22, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - Harsher penalties should be levied against “shady characters” who loot houses during evacuations, West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom told his council yesterday, May 21.

He was quoting from a letter he wrote in support of MP Dan Albas’ private member's bill calling for harsher penalties for thieves who hit up vulnerable communities during times of crisis.

“We stand with you in the belief that those who take advantage of emergency evacuations to engage in looting or vandalizing evacuated properties should be held accountable for these despicable acts to a much greater degree than currently allowed in the Criminal Code,” Milsom said.

Albas, who is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, introduced Bill C447 into the House on May 13. It calls for looting in evacuated areas to be included in the Criminal Code as an “aggravating circumstance” when it comes to sentencing.

“Even though our emergency crews try to keep an eye on communities that have been evacuated, opportunistic criminals have found their way into these neighbourhoods and made off with valuables many times,” Milsom said, reading from his letter. “Media have covered these crimes and the public outrage is clear, but it also serves to make people think twice about evacuating their properties.

“We think, like you, that people should not have to choose between protecting their property from shady characters and evacuating to a safe distance. Emergency responders should not have to spend valuable time convincing people to evacuate.”

Coun. Doug Findlater, who was West Kelowna’s mayor for 10 years, told council he’s signed at least a dozen evacuation orders in his time as mayor.

While he supported Milsom’s effort, Findlater said it didn’t go far enough and there should be more consideration of mandatory evacuations.

He also took issue with Milsom’s comment that “criminals found their way into these neighbourhoods.” Some of the looters in Glenrosa and Smith creek evacuations were residents who did not leave when asked to, Findlater said.

“They were there so they went shopping in their neighbours’ homes,” he said.

All councillors offered their support of the letter. 

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