As you are aware, a public meeting was held August 28 in Oliver to discuss citizens’ concerns about crime and policing in the community. There were some 400 in attendance, which, for a town of 5,000 is substantial.
Purpose of this letter
To simplify the issues so that Oliver’s mayor and council are clear on the problems, the causes of the problems and the options available to them.
Problems faced by citizens
Mostly non-violent crime such as vehicle break-ins, vehicle thefts, home break-ins and property thefts, though assaults have occurred as well as attempted murder and even homicide. Most of the non-violent crime is occurring outside of daytime hours during the night when there are no police officers on duty in Oliver.
It must be remembered that many attending were also business owners who are facing particularly difficult crime problems.
A number of business owners are frustrated about the level of crime in Oliver. Business owner Chip Sabyan said he has been left with no other option to deter thieves from breaking into his business than to sleep in his vehicle at work.
Sabyan, the owner of Sabyan Automotive Service and Repair, said in the month of April alone his auto recycling and vehicle storage business was broken into four times and also experienced one attempted break-in. “I have to sleep down here sometimes, weeks on end with one eye open, the other one half shut to try to do my best to keep them out of here because we seem to have no other help,” he said.
Other small business owners in the Oliver industrial park echo the sentiment. Dennis Munckhof owns Munckhof Manufacturing and says, “Locally there is just a ton of unrest about the amount of crime and it’s really starting to hit people right in their own backyards.”
He added: “They (RCMP) are very understaffed in particular because the amount of work they have to do to bring one case to court.”
Ed Machial owns South Okanagan Equipment and says, “We’ve had guys come in at one in the morning, steal one of my trucks loaded with a customer’s machine. They’re not coming in from somewhere else, they are kids that have grown up here, their families have been here for a long time, so it’s local activity.”
Richard Simmons owns Rapid Industries, a truck repair business. He said crime has gotten worse in recent years. “A lot of theft, trucks being gone through, battery theft; we can’t keep a battery in our outdoor forklifts, we have to take them in every night,” he said.
Property crime increased 34 per cent with 125 reported incidents in the first quarter of 2018, compared to 93 incidents in the same time period the year before.
“Oliver has been experiencing a higher property crime rate than other communities in the South Okanagan. This is mostly due to prolific offenders,” said Supt. Ted de Jager
Concerned residents said proposed solutions include more boots on the ground, better street lighting, and enhanced video surveillance such as CCTV cameras on public streets.
“Part of the solution is to increase police presence. It’s proven to slow down crime,” Machial said.
Crime fighter Michael Guthrie: “It’s getting worse, it’s getting more violent.”
The last time owners of property in the Town of Oliver’s industrial park came before council with the same complaints, a security company was hired for at least one month. Not one criminal was spotted or one call to police or any arrests were made.
Main cause of the problems
A lack of police coverage and enforcement due to (1) a shortage of two unfilled officer positions promised by the province at the time the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) just outside Oliver was approved, and (2) no police coverage outside of daytime hours.
Contrary to comments made at the August 28 meeting, it is not the sole responsibility of the RCMP nor of the provincial authorities to ensure that a municipality in British Columbia is properly policed and protected. According to the B.C. “Police Act”, that responsibility falls on the municipality’s council.
It seems clear that the final responsibility of ensuring proper and adequate policing for the citizens of Oliver is the council of Oliver. This responsibility is currently not being met by that council . . . even though the citizens of Oliver are currently paying a higher property tax to “get the taxpayers ready for the increase when the town goes over 5,000 people.
It must be remembered that these additional property taxes paid by every property owner in Oliver are being used by council for other expenses with none of this additional revenue going to improving police protection of citizens and taxpayers.
Directions for Oliver council
Demand the current police force be split into day and night shifts in order to provide round-the-clock service.
Spend the extra property taxes you started imposing on the taxpayers of Oliver this year for police protection by directly hiring additional officers, non-RCMP if necessary.
Dan Landault, Scott Hawke, Oliver