A spike in crime, specifically property crime, in South Okanagan communities has local politicians lobbying the province for more police presence.
Mayor Ron Hovanes of Oliver was part of a Nov. 10 meeting with MLA Linda Larson, Area C director Terry Schafer and Sgt. Blaine Gervais of the RCMP discussing what can be done about the uptick in crime. At an RDOS board meeting last month the regional crime stats were presented by the RCMP and Hovanes said Oliver’s statistics were “quite alarming”
“The RCMP, their words were that the Oliver area got ‘hammered’,” Hovanes said.
The area has had nearly a 70 per cent increase in crime over the past year.
“Like all other areas we’ve got our prolific offenders that get out of jail and are back on the streets and start up again, and we get our spikes in crime, but like I said this year has been particularly busy,” Hovanes said.
Hovanes, along with the support of his fellow politicians are trying to make the case that with the excess crime files in Oliver, more officers on the ground are needed.
More RCMP officers in the area isn’t a cure-all according to police.
“We are certainly trying to work on some of these prolific (offenders) and catch some of these prolific (offenders), but at the same time people have to take certain steps,” said RCMP media spokesperson Rick Dellebuur.
Hovanes agrees that some responsibility lies with citizens to protect their property.
“I think we need to do a better job in the community as a whole to get property owners to really start looking after their own stuff even better,” Hovanes said. “We need to do a better job of securing our belongings to make sure we are looking after them, and we need to do a better job of looking out for each other.”
He said the idea of a neighbourhood watch may assist with deterring property crime, noting that the surrounding area has a large rural expanse, as well with Osoyoos and the areas surrounding Penticton, which can be harder to police.
“Sometimes I think these thieves look at it as easy pickings and I think we need to do a better job,” Hovanes said.
Hovanes said wineries in the area have been hit hard as well. Police response times in rural areas can make it difficult for businesses like wineries, and extra security may help stem the tide.
Some industrial park owners will be attending Oliver town council meeting on Nov. 23 to talk about issues with break-ins on those properties over the last year as well. Surveillance cameras, motion sensors and signage informing would-be thieves they are being monitored, keeping eyes on a neighbours property and prominent lighting are tactics Hovanes hopes property owners will adopt.
Hovanes also hopes to get some attention towards the release of prolific offenders in the community. He lobbied Justice Minister Suzanne Anton at the UBCM conference in September, specifically regarding the manhunt for Ronald Teneycke which had an RCMP task force tearing through Oliver in July.
“You bring Ron Teneycke into your community, that brings resources away from desks. So what else is happening? What can you do? How can a detachment with seven or eight officers pull off surveillance when you are busy doing all the other things you need to do to keep a community safe?”
He’s currently working on making the case to the provincial government for more officers and Larson has asked for a meeting with the Justice Minister. The plan may broaden as well looking to get the support of neighbouring communities to say that the spike in crime isn’t localized to Oliver.
Boots on the ground would help, but resources to help educate, train or increase security would be of assistance as well.
“Our struggles are no different than other municipalities, but I do know that over this last year we really did get hammered, and we are still getting hammered,” Hovanes said.