The bad guys are going to work when you go to sleep.
In short, it is one of the messages the Penticton RCMP is sending to the public to remind them that there are certain things they can do to protect themselves and their property—including not leaving valuables in their vehicles, making sure their doors are locked and informing police about issues.
“If the whole watch is on and there is seven police cars rolling around town there is no way we can cover that entire area. We need you to be the eyes and ears and the people looking out for their neighbours to call that information in when they see it,” said Supt. Ted De Jager. “I can’t help you if you don’t call me. I want to make this very clear that this is not a criticism of resourcing levels, this is a reality.”
According to De Jager, who spoke at a community meeting on Tuesday at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, 60 per cent of the work the members are currently doing is not police work. He said it is health work, addictions, mental health and dealing with the people misbehaving but not doing anything criminal. He said the Community Active Support Table (CAST) is an example of other agencies stepping up. He explained that more of that collaboration is needed to get police officers doing their proper jobs.
The CAST group meets once a week to address social concerns, to connect individual at elevated risk with services so they are off the streets. However, addiction problems are still driving the crime rate up.
“This is the biggest drug epidemic to ever hit this country. Over 70 people in the last two years have died … in the South Okanagan from overdoses. I say that is a pretty staggering statistic,” said De Jager.
The drug section, enhanced patrols, incoming youth liaison officers and working with other agencies are all ways RCMP are trying to keep tabs on prolific offenders.
“Is the majority of property crime committed by the same people? Yes, yes, yes, yes. It is, absolutely. We have people that are super prolific—40, 50, 60 convictions—those are the people out preying on the community and those are the people that we have to either send to jail, send to treatment or whatever. We have to stop them from preying on the community. Those are the people we need you to call in about,” he said.
Many of the people that showed up to the meeting were frustrated with the court system.
De Jager said if people are not satisfied with sentences of criminals in court, or they want to see more help for those with mental illness, they need to make their voice heard with the different levels of government to implement change.
“My members’ job, in a football analogy, is to get the ball to the 80-yard line. Its Crown and the courts job to decide if they are going to go for a field goal or whether they are going to go for a touchdown and put that person in jail. That is way beyond me. My job is to continuously get the person who is committing the crime and victimizing this community in front of the people whose responsibility it is to take the next step.”
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