Whitehorse RCMP say there have been over three times as many break-ins to local businesses and organizations this year as there were by the same time in 2014.
By July 30, there had been 59 reported break-and-enters in Whitehorse, up from just 17 on the same day last year.
“The increase in the numbers is alarming,” Cst. Julia Fox wrote in an email to the News. She said the RCMP don’t know why there has been such a spike in recent months, but she speculated that one person or a group of people might be responsible for multiple break-ins.
Charges have only been laid in eight of the 59 break-and-enters this year. Ronald Ridgeway has been charged with breaking into Northern Industrial Sales on June 10 and Yukon Honda on June 14. He is also charged with theft under $5,000 during the first incident and theft over $5,000 during the second incident.
A second man, Richard Linklater, has been convicted of possession of property obtained by crime in a separate incident.
Youths have been charged in the other five cases. David Gilbert, the RCMP’s director of organizational strategy, said no information about the youths can be revealed, but it’s “highly likely” that the same youths were involved in multiple incidents.
“It’s often the case that if a kid’s getting in trouble for one thing, they’ve often done more than one,” he said.
Fox said 11 of the remaining files are still open for investigation, but most of the rest have been closed in the absence of new information.
Fox said the police are doing what they can to respond to break-ins, but there is a limited number of officers on duty at any given time, and they have to prioritize crimes against people.
“At this stage, they’re doing the best that they can with what they have,” she said. “We encourage the public to do what they can… to look out for their community.”
Joanne Henry, the executive director of the Committee on Abuse In Residential Schools Society, said she’s taken measures into her own hands to beef up security at her organization.
A thief broke into CAIRS last month and stole about $3,000, along with a number of possessions including a cheque book, a laptop, four sleeping bags, and a drum.
After the incident, someone contacted Henry to say that the person who’d stolen the goods wanted to give them back. But that never happened.
“I’m really choked, I’ve got to say,” she said. “We absolutely can’t take people out on the land anymore. We can’t go out and drop another $1,500 on bedrolls.
“They didn’t steal from CAIRS. They took it from residential school survivors that come to us for help.”
Since the break-in, she’s decided to install a full security system.
“Now everyone’s going to be monitored,” she said. “We never wanted any of that stuff. Now we have it, all thanks to the individual who took all our stuff.”
But not everyone can take such measures. Miranda Tippett, co-owner of Sweetness Bakery, said she’s not planning to change much after her store was broken into last week.
“I don’t have cameras everywhere,” she said. “It’s 400 square feet. I’m not locked down like a bank.”
Tippett said she’s recently noticed more young people wandering the downtown streets, drinking and doing drugs. She said the city could consider a curfew to make the city safer, but added that the real problem is a lack of activities for youths.
“You can prevent these sort of things from happening by giving the kids more opportunities to do other things,” she said.
Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the current economic climate is partly responsible for the higher number of break-ins.
“When you have high unemployment and you have a decline in the economy, this is what happens,” he said. “There are people who get desperate.”
Karp said business owners can come to the Chamber of Commerce for an assessment of how secure their businesses are, and for suggestions about what to improve.
Fox said installing security cameras is a good way to discourage crime. But she said there are small things businesses can do that will make a difference. Those include not leaving cash on site, putting up signs that say as much, and not leaving chairs or other items outside that could help people break in.
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