Radium residents are being called on to rally the community after a rash of thefts from vehicles over the Winterfest weekend.
A handful of concerned citizens turned out to the village’s Wednesday night council meeting to raise concerns about the thefts, which follow a number of recent assaults in the community, including one incident where an elderly man was mugged at about 8 p.m. while walking home from the store.
Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac, at the meeting to deliver his year end report to council, fielded concerns from both members of the public and village councillors who say they’re concerned about their safety following recent events.
“I want to know as a community what it is that we can do. Because from the sound of it, this is because of people here,” said councillor Karen Larsen, who said rumours of “drug cartels” moving into the community have been swirling in recent days. She and others at the meeting also asked if more police patrols could be sent to Radium, to deter criminals.
But Shehovac said it’s not likely patrol cars will be able to spend much more time in the village.
“I don’t have the resources, I don’t have the manpower to put out more members,” he said. “A lot of times in the evenings there’s two members working and that’s for the entire valley.”
About eight vehicles were broken into over the February 18 weekend, and while Shehovac says the thieves may have been drug users looking for easy money, there is no sign any cartel has moved in on the community.
“That’s rumours getting out of hand,” he told The Echo in a follow-up interview. “We have some issues with some people that are involved in the drug business but that’s like every other community.”
Of the four assaults in Radium police have investigated, Shehovac said only one was “a legitimate assault. The others were as a result of people involved in the drug trade not getting along. And to me that’s the price of business.”
Shehovac also told council most people involved in the drug trade in Radium are not only known to police, they’ve also already been charged with some criminal offense.
“All of them have conditions they’re going to breach, and we’re going to charge them again,” he said. “They’re a little bit nervous right now.”
For residents concerned about crime in the village, there were three suggestions: join the RCMP’s volunteer patrol group, look into the hiring of a reserve constable, and lock your car doors.
“The frustration I find when I read these reports (on the thefts) is almost every car is an unlocked car. We had one car with the keys in the ignition,” he said, adding in one case more than $1,000 was taken from a wallet left in an open car.
“The message to the people is that you’ve got to lock your cars. These people are lazy, they don’t want to be making noise and if the car is locked they have to make a bit more noise.”
On the enforcement side, Radium does have the option to hire its own, dedicated RCMP member — a retired Mountie known as a “reserve” member — but the village would have to foot the bill for the officer itself, and Shehovac said doing so is usually fairly expensive.
More cost effective, he said, would be expanding Radium’s Citizens on Patrol group, which only has two members at present.
Volunteers in the group patrol neighbourhoods from their cars, and Shehovac said the group has proven effective in other communities where he’s worked.
“All we would need in Radium is probably 10 active members,” he said.
It’s a suggestion mayor Dee Conklin hopes to see the town embrace.
“Citizens on Patrol is moving in the right direction. I think it’s time to reignite that again. Let’s take control of our community,” she said.
Council also met with Shehovac in a closed meeting later that night, which Conklin says put her much more at ease about what’s being done to deal with drugs in Radium.
“The RCMP are on top of this, really on top of this. And I’m talking the drug scene. I was blown away by what’s been accomplished to date,” she said.
“But that doesn’t mean we can just rest on our laurels. There is an issue and we need to get our citizens involved. We used to have Block Watch and really active Citizens on Patrol and we’ve just got to get back to that.”