OPINION: Crimes of opportunity in Squamish

In the wake of the ongoing RCMP sabotage investigation at the Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish residents are paying more attention to the law and order file.                                                                                             

During a presentation to council earlier this year, Kara Triance, the officer in charge of the Sea to Sky RCMP detachment, pointed to “outstanding successes” related to property crime reduction from 2017 to 2018. In particular, break and enters were down substantially and auto crime and mischief to property were also in decline.

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Whether property crime has increased so far this year has yet to be determined. Although our geographic location is a considerable asset, when it comes to criminal activity, it can also be a liability.

As most observers will no doubt confirm, this sprawling community along the bustling Sea to Sky Highway can be a magnet for crimes of opportunity.

This past May two men from Penticton were arrested in Squamish after the RCMP along with the Sea to Sky General Investigations Unit located several vehicles in Brackendale which they suspected were stolen.  They also recovered four mountain bikes stolen during two separate residential break-and-enters a week prior in the Ravenswood neighbourhood.

Following those arrests, News1130 reported that a rash of high-end bike thefts had mountain bikers on edge throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor and North Vancouver. According to that report, social media biking groups were “chock-full of stolen bike posts… bike shops and individuals are posting about a rise in the thefts they have seen as far north as Pemberton.”

The days when the average set of wheels cost $250 are long gone. With many pedal-powered rides setting their owners back ten times that amount, a stepped-up bait bike program should become a permanent and well-publicized crime prevention fixture throughout Squamish.

To some degree, the Mounties’ workload can be eased through more public awareness and direct crime prevention participation by residents. In the past, the Citizens on Patrol community policing volunteer program was noteworthy for its Speed Watch installations and theft advisory rounds in provincial park parking lots. Sea to Sky Crime Stoppers is another proactive group worth noting. That volunteer-run non-profit society’s executive board welcomes new members from the community at large.

Two years ago, they won the Milestone Award for property recovered after anonymous tips led to the return of $177,340 worth of stolen property.

Given our ongoing population spike and influx of visitors, the local constabulary will require additional boots on the ground soon. Squamish has 30 RCMP members and in 2018 the budget for their services was $5.76 million. This year that figure rose to $5.97 million. Within the next five years, the policing tab is slated to increase significantly. The fiscal elephant in the room will be the pending unionization of the RCMP, followed by a substantial muni tax hike to cover robust pay increases.

All told, with an array of crime-fighting resources and strategies at the District’s disposal, personal safety and property security should remain high on the agenda, whatever the revised price tag or logistical hurdles may be.

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