Vandalism in Tumbler Ridge

It is disheartening to walk around downtown on a Monday, knowing there is a good chance another tree will be broken, there will be broken glass around the downtown sidewalks, or perhaps even a business has boarded up it?s newly broken window. It makes it hard to appreciate the walk when the constant need to change directions or avoid the sidewalk altogether is a necessity.

The last few weeks have been busy for vandals. The golf course driving range was ripped up (with at least $10,000 in damage), the carts from Shop Easy ended up in the streets, and a planter from Hartford gardens was pulled onto the street. Further investigation found a tree also severely broken and damaged in the gardens. These events occurred over a few days.

According to Clark Hazlehurst, Public Works Manager, 19 trees have been damaged around town and will have to be replaced. The growth time for these trees, says Hazlehurst, is ?irreplaceable?. The trees cost about $600 each by the time they are delivered and planted, explained Hazlehurst.

Most of the vandalism has been occurring on Front Street, Main street, behind the Community Centre and around the Skateboard Park. Asides from the trees, picnic tables, street lights and garbage containers have been damaged. There has also been an increase in graffiti on public buildings and at the Skateboard Park.

The sneaky vandals carry out most their business in the early hours in the morning, when it is very dark and when most people are at home sleeping. There is also an increase of vandalism on the weekends. Hazlehurst says ?it is frustrating for the police because they cannot be everywhere all the time? and there is ?little or no police coverage? at the times these vandals are busiest. There are a few individuals however, that participate in acts of vandalism during daylight hours, thinking nothing of the damage they cause when they climb the trees in the downtown core.

Five individuals involved with the Restorative Justice Program have since admitted their involvement in the breaking of the lights at the Roman Walkway in early February of this year. A letter of apology (names withheld) published in the newspaper and a small fine saved them a criminal record. If the individuals that are involved in the recent vandalism are youth as well, one has to wonder if the Restorative Justice Program would be enough to get them to stop.

With the increasing population in Tumbler Ridge, there is bound to be an increase of mischief. It is unfortunate, but an increase in population usually has an affect on common crimes, like vandalism.

There a reward being offered by the District of Tumbler Ridge to help catch the culprits who damaged the trees at the skateboard park and for any other acts of destruction around the community. We can only hope that these individual(s) (or groups) will be caught soon so they are held accountable for their cowardly actions.

There is a $1000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals. Please call Clark Hazelhurst, Public Works Manager, at Town Hall 250-242-4242.

**According to B.C.?s Police Service?s Police and Crime Summary Statistics from 1996-2005(Chapter four: other crimes), mischief and property damage (vandalism) rates have been fluctuating from a high of 18.2 offenses per 1000 population in 1996 to a low of 13.8 offenses per 1000 population in 1999. In 2005, 25% of persons charged with mischief and property damage were youth and 87% were males.**