Port Alberni RCMP are warning against vigilantism in response to a recent rise in property crime.
Officer in charge Inspector Brian Hunter was in council chambers on Monday, Jan. 22 to present his end-of-the-year report for 2017.
Although violent crime went down in 2017, property crime—which includes thefts, break and enters and mischief to property—went up 8.6 percent for the year.
“Interestingly enough, the first four months of 2017, property crime was actually down 10 percent,” said Hunter. “We were doing really well.”
From May to December, however, property crime saw a spike of 17 percent. The Port Alberni detachment is still analyzing why this spike may have occurred.
Hunter said that community members can help the RCMP by calling and reporting any suspicious activity.
Ealier this month, a business owner in the community noticed a pair of suspicious individuals in their store and was able to take photos of the individuals, as well as their vehicle.
“Unbeknownst to the business owner, they were actually helping us solve crimes that hadn’t even happened yet,” said Hunter.
As a direct result of the business owner’s assistance, persons of interest have been identified in relation to a spree of overnight auto thefts.
But Hunter also cautioned against people taking matters into their own hands, after a case of mistaken identity led to an innocent person being assaulted last week.
“We do not need to get into vigilantism,” he said.
Last weekend, a property crime victim was posting surveillance photos of two individuals on Facebook and asking the community to identify them. They received a name, and proceeded to go to this person’s house. The name turned out to be incorrect.
The incorrectly accused individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the AV News that a group of people came to his door on Sunday.
“They were yelling and screaming,” he recalled. “They started pushing me. They were positive that I was the one.”
The original break-and-enter victim has now been arrested and is facing charges of assault and uttering threats. The incorrectly accused man received a number of injuries from the altercation, and is now unable to return to work.
“There’s no working in my current situation,” he said. “I can barely walk.”
He added that he has been psychologically affected by the attack.
“I was in extreme shock,” he said. “I’m still suffering. Not just physically.”
The attack came about because a surveillance video had been passed around on Facebook. He said a face was not clearly visible in the shot, yet he was incorrectly identified.
The assault victim said he will soon be leaving to spend some time away from the community.
“It isn’t very good on the image of the community when you have members of the community acting like idiots and bullies,” he said.
Hunter pointed out that Port Alberni has a strong social network. “What I do want is for the community to get engaged, share information with the police, and then let us do the policing,” he said.
In the meantime, the Citizens on Patrol and the Community Policing Office are developing a foot patrol program for the Uptown area. More information is available at the Community Policing Office, located at the Harbour Quay (#9 – 5440 Argyle Street).