On Friday, Dawson Creek businesses gathered together to discuss the recent uptick in break and enters.
A wide swath of business owners crowded into Community Futures, to discuss the situation and solutions with police, government, and Chamber officials present.
“There’s momentum now,” says Claudette Huber, the owner of the Happy Hobbit which was broken into last week, who organized the meeting. “The torch is lit, so I just wanted to create this meeting today to get the right people, who can actually do stuff and have resources to champion the cause.”
One local business owner, said, noting their business must’ve been stalked before being hit: “I don’t feel safe here anymore. This is not the Dawson Creek I want to live in.”
“I had to spend $10,000 on security, and my insurance still went up 40%.”
Business owners noted that mainly it was just cash taken, in the break-ins downtown, with other valuables often untouched.
“These are crimes of opportunity where someone is going around trying door handles on vehicles, they’re taking a look into windows to see if anything is easy and accessible to grab and if they can make a quick entrance in the building and a quick escape,” says Sgt. Damon Werrell, the DC detachment commander.
Some at the meeting questioned police response, saying they felt they weren’t taken seriously. (“I stopped calling in.”)
“As a detachment commander and as a new detachment commander, I have a vested interest in the performance of my members of our detachment, and I want to make sure we’re providing the best and most effective and efficient that we possibly can in Dawson Creek, so I am encouraging and monitoring and supervising my members to make sure that all investigational avenues and tasks are completed on the files,” says Werrell.
Werrell emphasized to victims of crime the importance of filing a victim impact statement, as well, saying that for police investigations, high res video surveillance is the most important.
“Making your business, or your windows, or your storefront, less appealing is going to be successful in deterring criminals wanting to break into it, so moving valuables away from the windows, opening the cash register and leaving it open in plain view and emptying it so that people can see from the window that the cash register is empty and that there’s no money to take if they were to break in.”
He also suggested volunteer program like Citizens on Patrol and Rural Crime Watch.
A bait car program is one solution the police are bringing forward — which targets crimes of opportunity — as well as a crime prevention initiative which includes security assessments by the police. Nightly patrols have increased.
Bodies are limited for the police — 25 cops are funded by the City, four by the province, but there are 11 vacancies (five hard, six soft). A member of the DC RCMP is receiving forensic training this week.
“Our forensic identification section is based out of Fort St. John, there’s one person that’s assigned to that section. Their workload and distance from being in Fort St. John is sometimes just difficult to get to Dawson Creek in a timely manner, so we’ve taken steps to make sure we get that training here locally.”
Solutions were worked towards. Long term aims included advocating for more police at the City and provincial levels. More short term aims included investing in private security patrols, and pooling money for Crimestopper rewards to catch the criminals.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathleen Connolly was put to task on the action items.
“You have people coming through your door hours after you’ve just been kicked in the gut, you have to serve customers and meanwhile you go to the backroom and everything’s pulled apart and busted, and you keep getting hit with these waves of this horrible invasion,” says Huber of having been broken into. “It’s affected my nine year old — my son is crying on the phone, and my daughter who works there is 19 and it just terrifies her.”
She was encouraged, however, by the dialogue of the meeting.
“I am super happy and very heartened, I think that a lot of solutions were put on the table, and I think this is the beginning of good things.”
Another meeting is being planned in the next two weeks.