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JONESIE: Fear and suspicion have brought us to a dangerous place

June 11, 2019 - 1:23 PM

 


OPINION


We're a long way down a dangerous road with all the anger, fear and suspicion over crime and conflicts with the homeless. The only question is who gets hurt or killed when this road inevitably leads to a cliff.

I can’t deny we have our issues all across the southern Interior, but we’re somewhere between perception and reality and our view of reality is corrupted by over-exposure. While reporters and media outlets like this one try to understand the situation, the stories, concerns, fear and anger are amplified tangentially through social media feeding itself again and again like a Human Centipede.

Hysteria, we have arrived. Neighbourhood forums throughout the area are full of baseless suspicion. Sure, plenty of concerns involve security footage and reports of actual theft or vandalism. But caught up in there as well is seemingly anyone driving a van, door-to-door soliciting or riding a bicycle. Their photos are taken and posted with some do-gooder suspicion likely without having done anything at all.

Last month in Lake Country, a woman called police to report a suspicious man who took her photo in a public place. Police called off the search for the man because he thought she was the one suspicious — that’s why he took her photo.

In Kamloops, suspicion and vigilantism has already devastated many lives. But some poor 60-year-old man waiting for a concrete truck tried to take a nap in the shade and was reported to police but with an incorrect licence plate that was reported stolen. Kamloops RCMP showed up in force, tossed the man from his vehicle and cuffed him before asking a single question. The man said among other injuries, they broke his thumb before they realized his plate was legit and he owned the vehicle. They apologized and left. He won't get so much from the person who reported it. 

In Penticton this month, some guy in an underpass was blamed for a 13-year-old girl getting hit by a car. The story, at least as told by her mom, was that the girl saw the man ‘shooting up’ and ‘acting strange’ and that scared her into taking another route — straight into highway traffic.

I have no doubt she was scared by something but what was it really? Was it something she saw or thought she saw in the underpass? Or was it months of hyperbole, suspicion, sharing and over-sharing stories of crime and lawlessness in town before she approached that underpass? Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

Regardless, I don’t see how the guy in the underpass is responsible for a girl not safely crossing a road but that too is a marker on this road. Logic fails.

After we told her story, we were contacted by a man who had a tent set up in that underpass. He was furious at being called a drug user and resented the insinuation he was some sort of criminal. If you’re in the Fed Up and Not Going to Take it Anymore crowd, you probably doubt him but in more than 20 years in news I have never had that happen before. There’s no reason to not believe him.

This is in a tourist town that has banned sitting or laying on sidewalks but where even the City of Penticton says they won’t enforce this bylaw equitably. This is a place where politicians talk openly about co-opting Interior Health to shut down a local group offering sandwiches to homeless people by reporting their suspicions about food safety. A place where Mayor John Vassilaki says the city is just doing what voters told it to do.

Now Vernon is talking about jumping on board that bandwagon.

This is legislative vigilantism.

I’ve written about this before, when the goofball Soldiers of Odin and their various splinters popped up. At that time, I thought I had better answers. I urged people to put their faith and trust in highly-trained police officers instead of clowns with motorcycle patches.

But given the general RCMP no-show and the bed-messing from our courts on these issues I don’t say that anymore. If we are really serious about getting a handle on crime, we’ll vote with our wallets for our own police forces that can actually respond to community concerns and don’t give our cities second priority while they serve and answer to other masters.

Until then, how about we simply cling to common sense. Suspicion is fine, keep an eye on your property, help your neighbours do the same and report crimes when you see them. But without proof a crime was committed, maybe just hold your tongue until you do.

You don’t want to be the one heading over the edge.

— Marshall Jones is the Managing Editor of iNFOnews.ca

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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