Frustration growing as property crime spikes on Northern Haida Gwaii

The Village of Masset is appealing to Prince Rupert Crown Counsel for help in ending a recent spike in property crime.

The Village of Masset is appealing to Prince Rupert Crown Counsel for help in ending a recent spike in property crime, saying the level of community frustration is growing steadily.

“The consensus in the community and on social media is that something different needs to be done. The revolving door of arrest, release on conditions, and repeated breach of those conditions is not working,” reads the letter signed by Mayor Andrew Merilees.

The village decided to write the community impact statement when it met Oct. 27, after hearing from Cpl. Peter Dionne, the Masset RCMP operations officer.

“There’s been a significant increase in property crime in the last two months versus this period last year,” he said of the north-end communities of Masset, Old Massett and Tow Hill.

Last year during the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 27, Masset RCMP recorded two break and enters, two thefts from a motor vehicle, and no breaches of conditions or failure to comply. This year during the same period of time, break and enters increased to six, thefts from a motor vehicle increased to 12 and breaches of conditions or failure to comply increased to 17.

“We’re aware of the source of these issues. We’ve made multiple arrests and they’ve been brought before the courts on four or more occasions,” Cpl. Dionne told council.

Two youths were arrested in relation to the recent thefts and break and enters. Both were held in custody until released by the Justice of the Peace to live in the community pending trial under strict conditions that are meant to protect the community from more criminal activity.

But concern was raised at the council meeting that the youths involved may be living on their own without supervision.

“Where we’re located and with our population base quite often Haida Gwaii gets left out of services. Is there a service we’re missing out on to provide youth? Are there any services Haida Gwaii could benefit from that we could try to secure?” Coun. Barry Pages asked.

Social services have been trying to find supportive homes for the youths involved, said Cpl. Dionne, and one is currently living in foster care. However, he said foster parents in the community have reported being rejected or victimized and may be reluctant to take them in.

“The young people we’re dealing with have exhausted their opportunities to change and live in supportive environments,” he said.

“These are adequate systems for most situations, but they have been unwilling to work within the support given to them”

He said he really appreciates the people who foster youth in Haida Gwaii’s communities, adding that they’re essentially volunteering because they assume so much risk to their property and a loss of their security.

“They take on some of the hardest work with some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Cpl. Dionne.

The Village of Masset concluded its letter by offering to meet with Crown Counsel to discuss options or services that might benefit youth in these types of situations.

There are a variety of ways north-end community members can work with RCMP to quell the spike in property crime, Cpl. Dionne said.

“Don’t be shy about attending court hearings,” he said.

“It’s important that community members, whenever they can, come to the courts when they’re in session and see the process.”

Court attendance at sentencing has the added benefit of showing offenders that real people are affected by their actions, Cpl. Dionne said.

He also recommends people continue to be vigilant, locking doors and windows and reporting any crime or suspicious activity. Stolen property has been recovered in the Masset area because observant people have seen items around town, he said.

“The police can only work within the support of the population,” Cpl. Dionne said,

“Ultimately, the best solutions are those that suit the community.”