By Alex Rinfret-Alarmed by the surging number of break and enters in the community, Masset mayor Barry Pages and RCMP Sgt. Jim Vardy are holding a public meeting tonight to talk about ways to tackle the issue.
Mr. Pages said he knew there had been more break and enters recently, but was shocked at the statistics Sgt. Vardy showed him last week: there have been 42 B and Es reported just in January and February this year, compared to 46 B and Es reported in all of 2006.
Mr. Pages said there are about 400 houses in Masset, so the numbers mean that 10 percent of them have been broken into in recent weeks.
“There has been a lot of concern in the community,” Mr. Pages said. “There’s been a lot of discussion on the streetÂ… People are worried to leave their homes to go to work.”
Residents are also fed up with a justice system that appears to be unable to deal with the repeat offenders who are behind the crime wave, Mr. Pages said. And that’s leading to concerns that some citizens might try to take revenge on the alleged perpetrators.
“We’re worried about it,” he said. “There’s talk about members of the community takings things into their own hands, and we don’t want to see that.”
At the Masset council meeting Monday night, all four council members said they have never, in all their years living here, seen anything like this winter’s spate of break-ins.
Councillor Brent Buell said he recently had a priority post box full of expensive books stolen from his vehicle, so he understands how the victims are feeling.
“People want things changed or improved now,” Mr. Buell said. “I think we’re a pretty peaceful community in that there hasn’t been any vigilante action.”
Mr. Pages said he became so concerned about the situation that he phoned up the provincial court judge when she was here last week for the monthly court session. That led to a lunch meeting attended by the judge, crown counsel, RCMP, Masset council members and Old Massett chief councilor Elizabeth Moore.
The judge said she would try to attend tonight’s meeting, and the crown counsel office also said it would try to send a representative, Mr. Pages said.
Members of the public will be able to talk at the meeting about how their lives have been impacted by these crimes, an opportunity not available in the court system.
“I think it’s important that the judge and crown counsel hear how it’s affected them,” Mr. Pages said. “I think it’s important those agencies hear how this is affecting residents’ lives.”
Sgt. Jim Vardy said RCMP want to hear what residents have to say, and help come up with ideas. The people breaking into houses are taking jewelry, money and liquor, he said, indicating that these crimes are probably motivated by a need to get quick money to feed addictions.
Community members need to know that they can no longer leave their homes unlocked and their vehicle keys in the ignition, Sgt. Vardy said.
The meeting will start off with a power point presentation by the RCMP, and Mr. Pages is optimistic that solutions will come out of it.
“I’m expecting we’re going to have a good turnout,” he said. “I’m hoping there’s enough brains and people in the building we’ll come up with some positive solutions.”
RCMP have had some success since the beginning of March putting on extra weekend patrols. For example, on March 3-4, Cpl. Bob Isaacs said the detachment had five officers on duty Friday and four on Saturday, when normally they would only have two.
The fire department also put two vehicles and volunteers on the streets over the weekend. Both March weekends have ended up being relatively quiet, with no new break and enters reported.
Cpl. Isaacs said the extra patrols are great to have, but they are not affordable in the long term.
The public safety meeting takes place tonight (March 15) at the Howard Phillips community hall, starting at 7 pm.
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