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Problem houses, business break-ins a concern for council

Letters were submitted to North Battleford council from residents about criminal activity in the city.
North Battleford council Oct. 25 3
Staff-Sgt. Jason Teniuk of Battlefords RCMP Detachment (top left corner) speaks to council on issues raised in two letters about crime concerns in the city.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - Problem houses, as well as a rash of break-ins hitting North Battleford businesses, have become major concerns around the community.

The two issues made their way to Monday night’s city council meeting, as the city received two letters from residents outlining concerns about the situation.

One letter was from a local business proprietor whose store was broken into twice in the span of a few months this year. This was in spite of having a security system in place; after the first break-in, cameras were installed as well. 

The business stated they spent over $20,000 in repairs and upgrades, including “thousands of dollars to install lockable window shutters in order to protect our livelihood.”

“Enough is enough. People are angry and we are looking for leadership and action. We want to live in a community that is safe. We want to live in a community we can be proud of. We are sick of feeling helpless. We want to advocate for and be part of the change that we know the city needs. What plans does the City have to make this a reality? How will business and residential crime be addressed? Are these plans timely and actionable; will they make a difference for the people who are currently being affected?”

The other correspondence came from a group of homeowners in the Kinsmen Park area who complained of criminal activity there. They particularly raised concerns about one rented house that was subject of a drive-by shooting in March, 2020. 

Among the concerns stated in the letter were: people and vehicles coming and going from the house at all hours of the day and into the night, as well as people in gang apparel, trespassing, storage of stolen property, assaultive behaviour, yelling and screaming, doors being banged, home invasions, barking dogs, sounds of gunfire mistaken for fireworks, and other incidents. 

It was also noted, however, that the individuals in the problem house were later evicted.

RCMP Staff-Sgt. Jason Teniuk was on hand at the council meeting, and he acknowledged the concerns raised in both letters.

Regarding business break and enters, Teniuk acknowledged that was an issue. He pointed to the latest RCMP statistics which stated that for quarter three from July to Sept. 2021, business break and enters had gone up to 26, up from 11 for the same period in 2020.

This was “definitely something we are very aware of, something that’s been going on for quite some time. It’s concerning, whichever way you look at it.” 

Also during the quarter was a massive increase in having or trafficking in stolen goods, up from six to 28. Drug offences were also up for the quarter from 26 to 54.

The rise in break and enters and stolen goods offences weren’t something they wanted to see, said Teniuk, but are going to be a symptom of the drug offences. As the RCMP puts the pinch on the drug crime, he said, drugs get harder to come by and “people have to come up with resourceful, albeit illegal ways, to afford to get their fix.”

“This is a symptom of that, unfortunately,” said Teniuk.

Regarding this particular business break-in, Teniuk said they had identified a suspect and were waiting for things to line up including lab results, and “we will be in a very good position to make an arrest.” They hope to do that in the next short while.

Of the concerns raised in that letter, Teniuk said “I understand what they’re saying, I sympathize with them, I understand the frustration, and I agree they shouldn’t have to put bars on the windows. We should not have a community where we have to do that, and it does put a black eye on the community. As far as we’re concerned, we’re going to keep moving forward.” 

On the Kinsmen Park incidents, Teniuk said “I understand where they’re coming from, I absolutely do.”

One thing mentioned in the letter was support for the use of SCAN  - Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods — in addressing dilapidated properties in the city. Teniuk noted that SCAN is really designed to work in conjunction with police in an enforcement action, not as a separate arm.

There was also the suggestion made that there be more direct collaboration between the Community Safety Officers and RCMP. “I can tell you that is already being done,” said Teniuk. 

He said the CSOs “have come a long way from where we were a number of months ago” and they have a very good working relationship. Teniuk said they planned to move forward with further integrating the CSOs with their office.

Teniuk also stressed the importance of the community as a whole getting involved in preventing crime.

“Community safety is not just about the police. The police are not solely responsible for community safety. The community is responsible for community safety… everybody plays a role in community safety.”

For instance, Teniuk stressed the importance of people calling the police, and then being prepared to provide assistance to police such as providing video, or to go to court to testify. He also voiced support for Citizens on Patrol.

“What we need is the cooperation of the public. If we’re going to rely on just the police to do things, we’re going to end up in the same state we are.”