On Thursday Nov. 9, at the Village Inn banquet hall, the Vanderhoof Volunteer Crime Watch Patrol hosted an information session on crime prevention with presentations from RCMP, District of Vanderhoof and a home security firm.
Crime Watch is in need of more volunteers, with a decline in membership since its very active beginning in the early 1990s. As the eyes and ears of the community, they patrol to observe, record, report – they don’t engage in any activity or dangerous situations. Vehicle patrols with two members at a time are done at any time or day, but occur mostly on the weekend. Margaret Hall spoke as the representative of the group and pointed interested new members to the Crime Watch’s Facebook page.
Constable Khoa Nguyen, the RCMP liaison for the group gave tips on how to deter break and enters. He said a lot of prevention is common sense. Like locking doors or securing a shed or garage. People in Vanderhoof can continue to trust their neighbours – it’s criminals from out of town that are being opportunistic.
Cst. Nguyen advised residents “Lock your doors when leaving, to secure any access point for criminals to enter.” He said most of the property stolen is because of easy accessibility, like leaving the keys in the vehicle.
A big part of prevention is to not make it easy for the criminal to get access to property, tools and equipment. “If it’s a nuisance for you, then it’s also a nuisance for the criminal. So lock up your equipment at the end of the day.”
Video surveillance is a helpful deterrent which can helps to identify criminals. Sometimes video footage can show licence plates, a game camera can be helpful and a deterrent. A surveillance system can be expensive, but it is a long term investment, especially if you are spending a significant amount of money on equipment.
The mentality of a small town is that “everybody is nice”, which is true because most of the criminals are not people from the community. However, just like posessions left out in the open, Vanderhoof, unfortunately has easy accessibility being on the highway, which has brought increased drug trafficking and related crime through our community. It’s easy to stop in and keep moving and “Criminals see us as being vulnerable. They see as not being prepared,” said Cst. Nguyen.
As Mayor Thiessen pointed out “We enjoy easier access to Prince George, wider lanes. Criminals find it easier access too.”
Adapt, be prepared
“Vanderhoof is a strong community but it is a community that has not yet adapted to the [crime] that we are seeing right now. Also a new trend is people break in to get money or a cheque to try to create fraud to fuel their addictions and pay money to drug dealers.”
“Unfortunately a lot of people are not willing to change until they are directly affected by crime or have something bad happen to them.”
“We see that a lot in the rural areas, where RCMP have asked residents to secure their possessions. Criminals know it takes the RCMP 20 minutes to get out to these areas and they know they can steal a quad and have a window to escape or take another route. Especially from an outdoor workshop or shed. When there isn’t a car in the driveway they go and test the door.”
Locked up and
So we all have to change our mindset to locking our doors and vehicles at night, not leaving anything exposed in the window. All those precautious measures were not thought of before. Now locking up has to be a norm for all of us.
“If you have anything electronic with resale value and it’s left visible, even if it’s locked inside a vehicle, as long as they can see it, then the only thing they have to do is break a window,” says Cst. Nguyen. “Then you lose a window and you lose a laptop as well. Fixing the window is an additional cost on top of the cost of replacing the item.”
“A lot of people tell me ‘just leave your door unlocked, then they don’t have to break a window’ but your laptop still gets stolen, so how about just hide it or don’t leave it exposed, bring it with you. You’re not only saving your laptop you’re saving a window as well. That’s one example,” says Cst. Nguyen.
Former Vanderhoof resident, Brendon Alias, from Curtis-Elite Prince George, spoke later about security solutions giving the following advice: “Make yourself the hardest target. Lock your doors.” He added some humour, “Let your neighbours be an easier target! Because of the law of the path of least resistance, they will move on.”
Constable Nguyen concluded his address by saying “Crime rate has increased over the years, but our resources have stayed the same. With a set number of police officers, we have had to adapt and stretch ourselves thin.”
This is the perfect segue for District of Vanderhoof Mayor, Gerry Thiessen, to step forward and begin his talk.
“We have young police men and women who have moved to our community and sledded through tough times. We have half the members we should have in our community. The business case is 10 more policemen and two more office staff.”
Thiessen said we won’t know if this is possible from North District RCMP Chief Superintendent Lesley Bain until the budget has come down.
Over double the
Mayor Thiessen said that we need to get the average caseload for the Vanderhoof detachment down from the current 119 cases per member, closer to the average in British Columbia which is 57 cases per year.
”RCMP in Vanderhoof are doing more than twice as much as the average policemen in the rest of the province. Even if we got our requested 10 more policemen, we would still be carrying an average caseload for RCMP in B.C. We need to work on that and put pressure on politicians to allocate money for Vanderhoof RCMP.”
Mayor: write letters
“If we get one less than 10 more police officers we need to write letters. We need all ten.”
Thiessen says, “I’ve said to people: ‘If there’s a community in B.C. that needs police officers more than Vanderhoof, please tell me’. They say, “Okay, I will.” And nobody’s ever gotten back to me.”
Big crime has
come to us
“It’s not that the town of Vanderhoof is turning bad,” clarifies Thiessen. It’s still a safe community, one can walk the streets alone at night. “It’s that most of the crime is from out of town. The big crime, like the [drug bust] last week.”
Once again praising the local police force; “RCMP here don’t drive by things. You just have to look at the Legebokoff case. It is so fortunate that there are RCMP members in Vanderhoof and Fort St. James that took the time to say ‘That doesn’t look right’ and stopped and checked it out. We could be in a whole different situation here today, had two policemen not taken the time on a Saturday night to check something out.”
“Last week, same thing, a car came in from out of town and they were parked on the street after closing time with a whole lot of drugs. These people that work in our community are doing an incredible job, looking for things in our community that don’t seem quite right, and they’re not leaving a stone unturned.”
We have a couple of elements that come through our town. If there’s thefts you can be sure there are probably drugs involved and guns involved. The more we can do to keep them from stopping in our town, from seeing our town as a viable option for them the better it is for us.
Join Crime Watch
Thiessen stated that besides writing letters of support for more members, Vanderhoof residents can help the RCMP by taking the opportunity to join the Crime Watch Patrol group.
We cannot change our location, being on the highway 16. But joining Crime Watch is something we can do about it. Four hours a month to patrol. In volunteering you’re not putting yourself out, in fact you’re not allowed to chase or run after anybody. You’re just asked to drive. Criminals hate having people around. Crime Watch is one way we can be present so we don’t give any part of the town over to the criminal element.
“I do want to thank Crime Watch for what they do. It’s not an annual event. Crime Watch is in our community night after night, month after month, year after year,” said Thiessen.
Citizens can help
But the Mayor quickly added, however, that “It’s not just up to the RCMP and Crime Watch. It’s “also the way we go around our community and keep our eyes open, and just make sure when we see something – we report it. Take the time to phone in. You just have to do it. That just puts that much more people out there as part of the watch of the community and the safety of the community.”
Thiessen encouraged residents to either volunteer for the patrol or just go out in the community and be present. “Spend time in your community. It’s important. The criminal element want to do their thing in a quiet, private setting.” Don’t give them that space.
“People move to Vanderhoof because it’s a safe place to live.” Everyone can do their part to keep it that way.