'Catch and release' justice system leading to spike in property crime in Kamloops

Prolific offenders are being released back into the community, Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky said, with offences being committed almost with impunity.

Kamloops’ top cop expects to see a decrease in thefts and break-ins once third-quarter statistics for July through September are out, but said the problem is being exacerbated by a revolving door court system.

There was a sharp uptick in property crime at businesses through the first half of 2020 — something RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky has attributed to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as some shops were forced to close and “fewer eyes and ears” were on the streets.

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Asked by Coun. Mike O’Reilly during the latest community safety meeting if renewed business activity during the pandemic has deterred break-ins this quarter, Lecky said he doesn’t expect to see an increase in property crime, but rather a slight dip or plateau.

“But it’s still up and it doesn’t make me comfortable that it’s up,” Lecky said.

Break-ins to businesses increased by 105 per cent in the first quarter (January through March) of the year, from 62 last year to 127 this year, sharply increasing at the onset of the pandemic, Lecky said. In the second quarter (April through June), there was a 112 per cent increase, from 52 files last year to 110 reports this year.

“We really do feel for our business owners. It’s bad enough dealing with the COVID crisis but to have this on top of it is impactful,” Lecky said.

Mayor Ken Christian said he understands the Crown isn’t readily approving charges for theft under $5,000 and prolific offenders are being released back into the community — a notion Lecky confirmed.

“Low property crime is not being given the greatest significance in the courts right now,” Lecky said. “We have been catching the prolific offenders and, I hate to call it [this], but it’s not unlike a catch and release program that we have going.”

Lecky said police have also had a hard time getting conditions imposed, such as curfews, which, when combined with a lack of jail sentences, have led to offences being committed almost with impunity.

He said police will need the support of government to make effective change in the future.

“We certainly can’t do it alone,” he said.

Lecky also noted a report on crime prevention through environmental design for the West Victoria Street corridor was recently completed and Mounties will attempt to meet with some of the businesses owners along the route to try to address their concerns.

KTW previously reported on issues faced by several businesses, ranging from vandalism to theft, in an area of the city that has become concentrated with social agency supports.

© Kamloops This Week



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