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RCMP, COPP eye vandalism closely

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 02/15/2017 10:45 AM

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COPP volunteer Bill Oshynko and Steinbach COPP coordinator Bernice McMullan stand beside a spray painted semi-trailer near the corner of Lumber Avenue and First Street in Steinbach.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

COPP volunteer Bill Oshynko and Steinbach COPP coordinator Bernice McMullan stand beside a spray painted semi-trailer near the corner of Lumber Avenue and First Street in Steinbach.

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Two similar incidents of vehicle vandalism in under a month have prompted comments about vigilance and neighbourliness from the Steinbach RCMP and the local Citizens On Patrol Program (COPP).

The vehicles—one on Ellice Avenue, one on Home Street—suffered spray painted exteriors and slashed interiors during cold nights in January and February. The two incidents remain unsolved.

"We have sporadic graffiti and those type of issues," said Steinbach RCMP Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga. "It is very disconcerting to police when that kind of stuff happens, but I can’t say that I’ve observed a trend."

In his estimation, Steinbach experiences "an incredible amount of mischief" for a city of its size. Mischief and other property crimes are more common than personal crimes like assault, Laninga said.

General mischief statistics for the City of Steinbach provided by Steinbach RCMP show the detachment received 247 calls about mischief in 2016, down slightly from 2015’s total of 294. Thirty mischief calls have been received so far in 2017.

Steinbach COPP coordinator Bernice McMullan has been with the organization for the past six years. She said, while COPP does not keep its own statistics on vandalism or mischief in the city, it is not uncommon for volunteers to witness graffiti and other acts of vandalism while out on patrol.

"At one point, we used to take pictures and send them to the police," she recalled.

McMullan also remembered a past spray painting spree that left the same mark on public and private properties in several locations across the city.

Both McMullan and Laninga said that this type of property crime tends to be more common in the summer.

Laninga pointed out that volunteer bases like the one from which COPP draws its participants ideally need to keep pace with population growth.

"By all means, this is an excellent time to encourage people again that we need more eyes and ears out there to work with us to combat these issues," he said. In the meantime, Laninga said RCMP officers will continue to "maintain vigilance" and work with COPP volunteers.

Laninga also urged members of the public to notify the RCMP right away when they see suspicious activity on their property, rather than simply chasing the person away and calling the RCMP later.

"All that’s going to do is send them down three houses and they’re going to do something there," said Laninga of the perpetrators. "We do definitely get calls, but unfortunately it’s often the next day."

A conversation about vandalism is also a good opportunity to practice being a good neighbour, said Laninga. "It’s a good reminder to everybody that we have to help each other out as neighbours," he said.

To that end, McMullan said, applications to join the local chapter of COPP are available at city hall.

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