An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
VIGILANTISM IS COMING to the streets of B.C. cities. First Penticton, now Kelowna. Will Kamloops be next?
The Penticton group is called Clean Streets Penticton, and consists of a group of people who go looking for stolen items in homeless encampments and shelters. It has more than 2,000 members on its Facebook page, though typically only a dozen or so go looking for the items suspected of being stolen by street-entrenched people.
When they see a bike, power tools or other expensive items that a street person wouldn’t normally be expected to have, they demand the stuff back. The idea is to look for things that have already been reported stolen, but they sometimes pick up items that haven’t been reported.
If the owner can’t be found, the item is donated elsewhere. According to the founder, the rate of success is pretty good.
So, there’s now a group called Take Back Kelowna. It’s only been going a few days but it already has a few hundred Facebook followers.
Such an approach feels tempting to many who are fed up with petty property crimes in which goods disappear and are never recovered through normal police channels. The Penticton group is said to have received inquiries from Kamloops about how to set up a version of it here.
It all sounds good, on the surface. Law-abiding people taking back their streets and all. But it’s fraught with danger. At some point, it’s almost inevitable that violence will result.
Obviously, police don’t like the vigilante approach, and have urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands. And this is, indeed, vigilantism, which is defined as “law enforcement undertaken without authority by a self-appointed group of people.”
Don’t confuse these new groups with police-sanctioned citizen patrols that act as eyes and ears, not as enforcement.
As frustrated as people are with street crime, Kamloops should reject the vigilante approach out of hand.
I’m Mel Rothenburger the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.