A handful of people who attended the Property Crime Reduction Seminar were victims of property crime, and according to the satisfaction survey that came out recently, a lot more people in Hinton are concerned about the high volume of property crime cases.
Hinton RCMP staff sgt. Chris Murphy explained that resources are based on trends and facts. Statistics are monitored each month, and Murphy’s main concern are break and enters which are at 39 in 2019 so far, compared to 27 in 2018.
Jumps in other areas of property crime have been observed but not all are reported, explained Murphy.
Without a report it becomes more difficult to catch and prosecute offenders. Even when crimes aren’t solved, reported crimes still help the RCMP track where and when crimes are being committed.
During business hours, calls go directly to Hinton’s RCMP detachment, but after hours, calls go through a dispatch system in Edmonton, which can create a delayed response time.
Murphy went into detail on how citizens can avoid becoming victims of opportunity crimes.
“When it comes to sense of community, it’s very easy in this digital age to lose that. I, as a police officer, have seen this now for a couple of years, where neighbourhoods are slowly falling apart, neighbours don’t know neighbours, people aren’t looking out for each other and making those phone calls,” said Murphy.
Murphy suggested writing down VIN numbers, and make, models, or distinguishing features of valuable items.
Often, criminals look for areas where they aren’t noticed and won’t get caught, thus minimizing hiding places on private property is important.
Police officers in Hinton have dealt with more and more criminals who are addicted to crystal meth, a drug that is seen more than anything else and more often than before.
Criminals who use this drug can be irrational and violent, and Murphy cautioned about approaching criminals. Police officers being assaulted and police vehicles being rammed is not uncommon anymore, said Murphy. Under the Canadian criminal code section 494, any person has the right to arrest someone they find committing an indictable offence or if, on reasonable grounds, that person is believed to have committed a criminal offence.
A common example of an indictable offense would be a break and enter, or theft over $5,000.
The criminal code also states that once a citizen’s arrest is made, they have to turn over the criminal to the police as soon as possible. Section 25 of the code states that as much force as is necessary may be used, as is reasonable, but cannot cause grievous bodily harm or death.
One exception to that rule is that unless you are required to use more force to preserve your life or the life of somebody you are caring for.
Despite having these rights, this could lead to the victim being charged criminally if force used was found to not be reasonable, or being sued civilly.
Hinton has seen many thefts of motor vehicles or property from motor vehicles, which happen equally on all days of the week, but more throughout the night.
To avoid this, Murphy stressed that residents lock their vehicles, not leaving valuable items in plain sight, not leaving keys in a vehicle, parking in well lit areas, using alarm systems, video surveillance, GPS tracking, or steering wheel locks.
He added that even your loose change can attract an addict to break into a vehicle.
Break and enters happen more often between Thursday and Monday morning, but don’t only happen at night time. Often, these crimes happen during the day when residents are away at work.
When it comes to protecting ones residence from break and enters, Murphy emphasized locking doors again, installing peepholes in doors, installing motion lights, surveillance systems, and security systems, not leaving garage doors open for others to see their valuables, and closing drapes in the evening so others can’t see inside easily.
Video surveillance does help the RCMP identify criminals and will be used in court if quality is usable.
Making sure neighbours look out for each other’s residence while they are away is important, as well as not broadcasting holidays on social media. Neighbours can put out garbage or clear the snow to make it look like somebody is home while they are away.
Other tips to making it harder to steal property were deflating tires of equipment, removing batteries, and unplugging automatic garage doors. Murphy also suggested changing locks after moving into a new residence.
He emphasized crime prevention through environmental design, making it difficult to commit crimes.
Victim Services can help citizens learn about their rights as a victim, and help with things like going through court proceedings.
Murphy emphasized that each person who is impacted by crime should contact victim services to inquire about how they can assist before making a decision whether or not to use their services.