US Army veteran ‘wants you’ to attend town crime forum

US Army veteran ‘wants you’ to attend town crime forum

Michael Guthrie and Shirley Zelinski presented council with a 400-name petition on Monday calling for the use of closed-circuit TV cameras in strategic locations where crime is predominant. (Lyonel Doherty photo)

A former US military man wants to get tough on crime in Oliver, but he can’t do it alone.

So he’s urging everyone to attend an upcoming crime forum at the community centre on August 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Michael Guthrie says he wants to see standing room only, which will demonstrate how concerned people are about crime in their neighbourhood.

The man with 11 security cameras around his home doesn’t think that’s overkill. In fact, he’s hoping to convince the Town to invest in some cameras to deter thievery and take back the community.

Guthrie plans to address some specific issues at the forum, such as extra policing, security cameras, and how the proposed national park will impact local crime.

He noted the petition deals with the two additional police officers that Oliver was promised by the province to help the local RCMP cover call-outs to the Okanagan Correctional Centre. According to Guthrie, MLA Linda Larson has offered to take the petition to Victoria.

Being an avid hunter, Guthrie carries bear spray with him while he voluntarily patrols the streets of Oliver (at night) looking for suspicious behaviour. (He doesn’t leave his vehicle; he only reports what he sees to the RCMP.)

“There’s an enormous amount of activity from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m . . . there’s (bike) riders with trailers on them, backpacks and hoodies. They’re very nervous when you put the high beams on them, and then they disappear.”

Guthrie said the average citizen in Oliver doesn’t understand how bad it is here. He noted there is an incredible amount of crime that isn’t reported, or if it is, doesn’t filter down to the local population.

He doesn’t blame anyone for this, but hopes to rectify the problem by establishing a regular crime blog with the help of local police and the Oliver Chronicle.

“We want to know where the crime is happening. We don’t necessarily need to know who’s committing the crime and the exact address, but it would be nice to at least know the street.”

Guthrie currently administers a private online blog for residents who witness crime in their neighbourhood. “We’re dedicated to observing and reporting only; there’s no vigilante action.”

Guthrie acknowledged that the RCMP has been criticized for some of their actions, or perceived inaction.

“It’s real easy for people to sit back and say the RCMP aren’t doing their job. But you and I know better; they are doing their job given the amount of resources they have.”

Guthrie said he has observed in the last two months a considerable effort from the Oliver RCMP on the many files they’ve been working on.

“We need to support them and we can best do that by getting to that meeting (on August 28) and signing the petition.”

Being a firm believer in security cameras, Guthrie said a lot of municipalities have them, but not Oliver. He noted one of the big problem areas is Spartan Street.

“If you put a camera at the end of that street, the crime on that street goes away. Those people don’t want you getting their licence plate numbers and seeing their patterns of movement.”

Guthrie said if there is no expectation of privacy, you can erect a camera. “You put those cameras up and crime in this town is going to move on.”

Guthrie’s interest in cameras began after he was a victim of crime twice, once while on holidays; someone stole a light bar from his truck.

It cost him $1,500 for 11 security cameras, so he noted it won’t cost the Town very much to erect 30 or 40 units. He believes the recent nine per cent property tax increase could and should cover this expense.

He stated that Oliver has the money to put a sidewalk on a street (Spartan) where a fair amount of crime occurs. But the reality is one camera would do more for that community than a sidewalk ever could, he stressed.

“If you asked the residents of that street, would they rather have a new sidewalk or would they rather have no crime, which one do you think they’re going to choose?”

Guthrie said a lot of people in Oliver are ready for change because crime is getting out of control.

He cited one incident last December when he called the RCMP at 3 a.m. to report two trucks street racing in Oliver. “I sat on the phone for 35 minutes and finally just hung up and went home.”

But he pointed out he has seen more police coverage after hours now, which is a good sign.

As far as the national park is concerned, Guthrie believes that crime would increase due to the major influx of visitors every year.

“It appears to me that everyone in a position to make a decision (on the park) hasn’t bothered to think about that.”

Guthrie said he’s just a middle-aged guy who’s got time on his hands to do something about crime in this town. “When somebody gives us a black eye, there’s one coming back the other way. This is that! I don’t like the feeling of vulnerability.”