Editorial: Do we have a problem, Peachland?

Peachland, do we have a problem?

Coincidentally, I just typed that sentence when Peachland mall manager Norm Caplette dropped by the View office – to tell me Bosley’s pet store was broken into early Wednesday. It’s the latest in a string of break-ins – and you’ll likely agree with Norm when he asks me the same question as last Friday, when the bank was smashed in an attempted break-in.

“What’s wrong with people?”

Ask the various victims of break-ins and stolen vehicles over the past few months, they’ll all shake their heads too – it’s definitely a problem when some punk or punks, steals your stuff and causes damage.

Like most of us, Shawn Kelly was sleeping just after 5 a.m. Friday, totally oblivious to what was going down at the Peachland mall. But when the RCMP knocked on his door an hour and a half later, he was shocked – his truck was gone, and cops told him it had been used in a crime.

The evidence was definitely there at the VantageOne Credit Union. The ATM vestibule, the nighttime deposit box, and the building itself was heavily damaged – and all over, were chunks of logs and branches. Police say Kelly’s truck was used to ram the bank in an attempt to steal cash. They fled in another stolen truck, and as of now, the hunt is still on for the suspects. 

Scene of the crime: The damage from last Friday’s attempted break-in at the VantageOne Credit Union

“I’m an arborist, and I need that truck for work,” said Kelly, who owns Valley View Tree and Landscape. He was planning to work that Friday, and all through the weekend. He’s not now, though. He was awaiting word this week from ICBC on whether his 2006 F350 flatdeck truck is a write-off. Kelly’s livelihood is now in a bit of limbo, unable to pay for a new vehicle until all the insurance stuff is settled.

Shannon McDiarmid was just dealing with the same thing. Her F350 – which had Christmas presents and her husband’s wallet (it fell between the seats the night before), was stolen too, on Christmas Eve.

“I feel for Shawn – Fortunately, we don’t absolutely have to have a truck right now but feel as though not enough has been done. There’s an epidemic going on in Peachland right now.”

If you read the Neighbours page on Facebook, you’d easily get that impression. Reports of scofflaws going through vehicles and suspicious dudes on driveways has us all wondering what’s going on.

A phone call to the West Kelowna RCMP detachment wasn’t returned in time, but Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said although there may be a perception of more crime (he counts Friday’s incident as three crimes, as it involved two stolen trucks and the attempted break-in of the bank), he said there’s no numbers to suggest crime in Peachland has gone up.

“We want to reassure the community and we also encourage people to report suspicious activity and report crimes. Often people think it’s a waste of time to call us, but no crime is a waste of time.”

Al Blessin and his team of Community Policing volunteers haven’t seen anything amiss lately, but he also sympathizes with those who’ve had something stolen.

“I also had an F350 that was stolen off my driveway several years ago,” he said, noting volunteers now have the ability to check license plates as part of their stolen auto recovery program. Anything nefarious they find, they call the West Kelowna RCMP.

“I’d have to say, looking at the crime map statistics we get from the RCMP, Peachland is always very low compared to Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country. And over the last couple years, there’s been no increase at all in Peachland.”

That’s what the numbers say – and it’s important to remember those represent reported crimes the RCMP investigates. But anecdotally, we’re getting a different story.

Bosley’s pet store was hit on Wednesday morning

At the mall, Norm Caplette said in the 21 years he’s managed it, this is the most break-ins in the shortest amount of time. It tends to go in spurts – and we’re obviously in the middle of a bit of one. He said there hasn’t been much of an appetite for hiring full-time security, as the cost would be represented in increased rents for mall tenants.

“We’ve had windows and doors kicked in, they take the cash register, but this bank one was a little more extreme,” he said.

“These people are very very competent at hot-wiring, stealing, they could do some amazing things to get some equipment going, and get it gone, yet they don’t seem to be able to put their intelligence or their efforts in the right direction. I find that so frustrating. The damage that they do, it’s just sickening. And it’s just wrong.”

It’s expensive, too, says Frank and Laurie Kouwenhoven, who own Lakeside Auto. They’ve been hit three times over the past few years.

“And each time, it costs you money because you have to do things like install bars on the windows, more out on the shop, we’ve done the glass on the door twice – it’s a concern, for sure,” says Laurie.

We’ve been lucky so far, that no one has been hurt. There’s no easy solution to this – would increased RCMP patrols help? More bars and security? Do we want to barricade ourselves in our homes and businesses?

I guess for now, we keep up with the obvious things like locking up and being aware of surroundings, all the things authorities tell you to do. Should we be soured on our town?

Not a chance, says Kelly.

“At the end of the day, what can you really do. I’m not pissed off at Peachland, we’re still a quiet little town. But there’s a lot of BS out there, and we all see that.”

-Kristen Friesen

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