Roped off. Ministry of Forestry building in Smithers was broken into July 31. (Deb Meissner photo)

Roped off. Ministry of Forestry building in Smithers was broken into July 31. (Deb Meissner photo)

Town, downtown merchants and RCMP react to uptick in criminal activity

Ministry of forestry was the latest building broken into over the long weekend in Smithers

Over the July 31 weekend in Smithers, thieves broke into the Ministry of Forestry building causing extensive damage.

No one has been identified in the break-in, but it is in the early stages of investigation, RCMP said.

Even though recently released crime statistics show crime fell in Smithers last year, there has been a recent up-tick in and blatant shoplifting at local merchants in Smithers.

Smithers RCMP Cpl. Elizabeth Irvine said police have noticed a rise in stealing from stores, violent confrontations between shoplifters and merchants, and property theft and damage in the last several months.

The Smithers RCMP are urging more volunteers to sign up for Citizens on Patrol, to have more eyes and ears on the street.

READ MORE: Smithers crime severity index drops 18 per cent

They are also urging merchants to work together more in letting neighbouring businesses know about persistent shoplifters.

Business owners can even post pictures and names of people who have been shoplifting, or send them to the rest of the business community, Irvine said.

“Posting these kinds of pictures are allowed, as it is your store, in a public place, and it does not violate any privacy issues,” the corporal explained.

“We have had an informational workshop with the merchants and businesses in Smithers, to inform them how to work together and look out for one another, kind of like a block watch system. We explained reporting shoplifters, posting pictures of them saying they are not allowed in your business, and many other ideas.”

There will be more workshops in the fall to give Smithers business owners more information on how to deal with shoplifters and other threats.

READ MORE: Local businesses suffer break and enter thefts in Smithers

“The public perception is that we (RCMP) are not doing anything, which cannot be further from the truth. There are very strict protocols that must be met for the Crown to press charges in these cases.”

“You have to prove there has been a theft, either by video surveillance or a person actually observing the theft and continuing to follow the person until they leave the store, so the person cannot say they put it back, still surveillance is the most effective, but not all businesses can afford them.”

Irvine also talked about situations in Smithers in which merchants actually know the name of the person that shoplifts and don’t report it to the RCMP. Recently one owner of a business in Smithers was held at knife/needle point and robbed, in another incident, a salesperson was punched in the face as she confronted a shoplifter, and yet this was not reported to the police by the victim or the store.

“It is discouraging for us when those incidents are reported widely on social media, but not to the RCMP. If you report every instance, we can begin to gather enough information and relevant material, so that the Crown will push charges, as the pattern begins to be shown that this individual has a pattern of thefts,” Irvine urged.

“We have to prove a consistent pattern of behaviour to the Crown, and it has to be worthwhile in the public interest to spend the money on such charges. So if we can provide enough clear incidents involving a person, we have a higher probability of conviction, that is why reporting is so important… little things matter.”

Nevertheless, Mayor Gladys Atrill, who also attended the meeting, said the Mounties have agreed to do more.

“RCMP are increasing their presence in town and I believe it is a good thing for people to see the police downtown, on foot or on bike patrols.

– With files from Thom Barker

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Forestry Building in Smithers blocked off, awaiting Forensic Identification teams to arrive. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Forestry Building in Smithers blocked off, awaiting Forensic Identification teams to arrive. (Marisca Bakker photo)