Frustration mounting over crime wave in North Okanagan town

There are fewer than 3,000 people who call the North Okanagan town of Enderby home, but a recent rise in crime has some considering taking matters into their own hands.

“It makes people scared, upset, violated. They feel violated for sure and emotional,” Lori Heins said.

Heins came to Enderby city council Monday night with about 20 other concerned citizens to address the issue of crime.

“We just needed to take the emotion out of it so we could get some clarity as to whose responsibility is what and what as a community can we do to mitigate the damages from this,” she said.

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Heins moderates the Facebook group, If It Happens In Enderby It Stays In Enderby, where dozens have been venting their concerns over property theft from homes, businesses and vehicles.

“Based on people feeling violated and feeling like it’s happening all the time, it’s huge. like nothing’s being done,” Heins told Global News.

The towns longtime mayor, Greg McCune, acknowledged people’s concerns Monday night during the meeting but was quick to throw his support behind the efforts of RCMP.

“As the mayor, I’ve looked at what the RCMP do and I’m very impressed at how they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of a little shift and a little bit of tweaking at certain times to address these concerns. And it’s valid. These people that came tonight are concerned and rightly so. We’ll just keep moving forward to address those and work together as a community.”

McCune said the city knows crime is an issue but believes it has not made the rural community less safe.

“Overall, I’m confident it’s a very safe community but some of the crimes are super frustrating and we totally understand that,” he said.

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The mayor told the small crowd to avoid confronting possible criminals and maintain personal safety by calling RCMP.

“We can say that it’s a wonderful idea to lay a beating on him. And you know what, honestly, it’s probably not a bad idea. But at the end of the day it’s not going to benefit you. You probably will be the one charged. Your boss may go, That’s not the person I thought I had. You could lose your job,” McCune said. “Do we want to stoop as low as the people that are causing us the problems? No. I think if we can, again, safely forward the information the RCMP need, and let them do their job.”

An RCMP officer at the council meeting said statistics show there are only nine more theft from auto files this year compared to the same period in 2017.

“Over that last couple weeks, we have seen a little bit of an increase, just in the last 2-3 weeks,” Cst. Novaks said.

When it comes to the venting on social media, Novaks said police file volumes in Enderby don’t match resident concerns.

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“My concern with that is people get on Facebook. We all know it. They say things because they’re comfortable sitting at home typing,” Novaks said. “But my question is the people that are making the comments, are they calling us?”

Residents said they don’t see the police presence they believe they should in Enderby.

“You don’t see them out and about,” Sean Hamilton said. “It would be nice to see them out in our community.”

Unmarked police cars have been doing patrols in recent weeks, according to Novaks.

Hamilton wonders if more police officers in their community is the answer.

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“What does it take for the government to supply more funds for more officers to our communities and all the outlying communities? We need it,” he said.

Enderby is patrolled by some of the 33 RCMP officers who work the expansive rural areas of the North Okanagan outside of Vernon north to the Shuswap, according to the mayor.

McCune said the town is taking steps to help people who turn to crime to fuel drug habits or because of mental health issues.

“I think as a community, too, we’re taking steps to help these people,” he said. “There are certain people, it’s a crime of necessity. What can we do for them. how can we help them break that cycle?”

Residents left the meeting understanding they must do more to keep an eye on each other and be more diligent about locking up their belongings.

“I think now that we’ve started the discussion, in January, we’ll probably set up something where everybody can get together and talk about certain areas and what can be done,” Heins said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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