Vanderhoof residents gather community support for theft concerns

A citizen group is looking to gather community support online for positive change against a recent theft spike in Vanderhoof.

A citizen group established a Facebook page on Oct. 17 to gather community support online against a recent theft spike in Vanderhoof.

A citizen group established a Facebook page on Oct. 17 to gather community support online against a recent theft spike in Vanderhoof.

A citizen group is looking to gather community support online for positive change against a recent theft spike in Vanderhoof.

Establishing “Vanderhoof Theft has to STOP” Facebook page on Oct. 17, Lana Cooper Evenson published an open letter to Vanderhoof’s mayor regarding concerns on not only thefts, but also residents who may take matters into their own hands.

“I have been asked to represent many Vanderhoof citizens, that are feeling frustrated due to all the theft occurring in town,” she states. “I appreciate that you and your council members fully support all police/crime watcher/citizen efforts. We are asking that all members of the community work together to find a positive solution.

“There is a fear of ‘vigilante’ groups forming and the risk of these unregulated actions may cause more harm to the community. Please support the Facebook page ‘Vanderhoof Theft has to STOP’ and know that this group is only an advocacy group for positive change.”

The page attracted over 100 likes within several days, sharing theft reports from citizens as well as advice from the RCMP’s official website.

Mayor Gerry Thiessen says a community meeting regarding citizen concerns on thefts is in the works.

“Are we perfect? No,” Thiessen said. “We need to be vigilant, keeping doors locked.

“We have pockets of concern, and it appears to be mostly from highway traffic going through the community.”

He has been engaged with the local police force throughout the summer to understand the thefts.

“Going through the numbers, it’s always been brought back to us that it’s a very safe community,” Thiessen said.

Page organizers also invited the RCMP to support the page, expressing that some citizens felt inadequate police response and presence in the community, as well as a need for a larger police force.

While the Facebook page is a proactive action for the community to share information online and spread the word, citizens need to contact the RCMP for timely response, said Sgt. Svend Nielsen, Vanderhoof’s detachment commander.

“A phone call to us first when it happens, rather than someone tell us that they’ve heard on Facebook hours later,” Nielsen said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have resources to watch Facebook all the time.”

RCMP statistics confirmed that the number of thefts in Vanderhoof is high this summer compared to last year, and case load per RCMP member is up.

“We understand that people are upset or feeling unsafe,” said Sgt. Svend Nielsen, Vanderhoof’s detachment commander. “That’s why in the summer we worked extended hours and have members doing additional patrols.”

Number of charges increased by over 70 per cent this year, due to the local detachment’s priority offender program to target citizens who were causing most crimes in town.

“We give the members credit for the great work they’re doing,” he said.

The RCMP are in touch with page organizers to address concerns.