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Oliver, B.C., calls for more police resources following crime spike

03/25/2015 10:07 EDT | Updated 05/25/2015 05:59 EDT
The town of Oliver in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley is calling for more policing resources after a recent spike in crime that some residents say have been left unresolved because of a lack of police services.

Local business owner Robert Golosky says it's been more than two months since he reported to police a theft of $80,000 worth of vehicles and landscaping equipment, but he has "yet to see an RCMP come to my yard." His neighbours have experienced similar situations, he said.

"Our crime rate has really increased in the past year," he told B.C. Almanac's Gloria Macarenko. "You can talk to somebody just about everyday — this has been broken into, that's been damaged. A lot of people aren't reporting stuff because there's no action."

Like many small B.C. towns, Oliver does not have 24-hour police service. Police are on-call, and it can take them two to three hours to respond to a call.

Crime on the rise

According to a recent RCMP report presented to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, residential break-ins in Oliver increased from 13 to 25 between 2013 and 2014, while vehicle thefts rose from 22 to 55.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes says he understands police resources are limited, but residents are getting increasingly frustrated that they don't even get to speak to an officer face-to-face.

"I understand … they are investigating these crimes, they do get to them, but because there's been so much of it, there is a real lack of that personal connection," he said.

We are monitoring policing resources: Province

B.C.'s Justice Minister wasn't available for comment, but a spokesperson said in written statement that the ministry "continually monitors policing resources to ensure adequate, effective policing in smaller communities like Oliver that are served by provincial detachments."

"That said, the RCMP is monitoring workloads to assess resource implications that may result from the Okanagan Correctional Centre and any new provincial member requests will be considered by the RCMP in balance with priority needs throughout the province," the statement said. 

Opposition New Democrat Justice Critic Mike Farnworth says simply monitoring isn't enough, particularly when technology and social media have allowed criminals to operate in more sophisticated ways in small communities.

"Clearly there's a problem in Oliver, just as there are in other communities around the province, and I think it's incumbent that the province sits down with the council in Oliver, sits down with the [Union of B.C. Municipalities] and say, 'Look — what are some of the key areas we need to be focusing on in terms of additional resources?'"

To hear the full story, click on the audio labelled: Rural policing under fire in Oliver, B.C.

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