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Ominous signs

It's another ominous sign, to be sure.

It's another ominous sign, to be sure. The discovery by a group of hikers of a man's body - apparently still clinging to life, but soon to be pronounced dead - just off the Mamquam Forest Service Road near Valleycliffe is just the latest in a series of sporadic incidents that might add up to little, but if taken in a bit broader context, make you wonder whether organized crime is creeping into our community.

Let's face it: It's probably been around, off and on, for some time now. Clearly, a lot depends on how one defines the term "organized." Maybe our proximity to a major urban centre means it's inevitable that these sorts of activities will spill over in Squamish from time to time. Either way, each time something like this happens here, it becomes abundantly clear that despite our community's one-route-in, one-route-out location, or perhaps because of it, we're in no way insulated from the sort of criminal activity that we're used to hearing about occurring on an almost daily basis in the Lower Mainland.

Exactly a year ago (Oct. 9, 2010), there was the apparent drive-by shooting that saw bullets hit two apartment units at the Spectacle Building in Garibaldi Way, and last November, a vehicle that was parked in a driveway of a home on Skyline Drive exploded, the result of what police called an "improvised explosive device," believed to be targeting the vehicle's owner, whom police said was known to them. Fortunately, no one was hurt in either incident. And now the discovery of the body of a Surrey man, also described as "known to police."

Even if all were isolated incidents, not evidence of repeated and regular organized crime activity, it's clear that Squamoleans have work to do make our community safer. In the Vital Signs report released by the Squamish Community Foundation on Tuesday (Oct. 4), Squamish rated "poor" on all four indicators (see story on Page 3) in the "Safety" category, with our per-capita rate of both property and violent crimes more than 50 per cent higher than the national average in 2010. In spite of those alarming figures, SCF president Ian Davis, also a lawyer, said that while our rates in both categories had fallen since such statistics were first compiled here in 1998, "it's still high and we've still got some stuff to do there."

But what sort of "stuff?" Well, perhaps citizen-led neighbourhood watch organizations in each of Squamish's neighbourhoods would help. And perhaps - in spite of recent municipal budget constraints - there's some way to get more police officers on our streets. The same Vital Signs report indicates that in 2010, on a per-capita basis, the number of police officers posted to Squamish is 31.5 per cent below the national average.

While economic development appears to be the No. 1 issue on the minds of candidates - and it's all interconnected, eh? -we'd like to add the safety of our citizens to the list of issues facing those hoping to sit on the next municipal council.

- David Burke

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