Harrison residents are getting ready to take their community back from thieves, after a rash of property crime kicked off the development of a new village-wide Block Watch.
“It’s not just a sleepy little town anymore with seniors living here,” Alison Douglas, a two-year resident of Harrison Hot Springs, said. “We’re out there watching and we don’t want (thieves) coming back into our town.”
Douglas and her husband have lived in Harrison for two years, and in that time have seen his truck broken into four times.
“After the second one, I was going to sit in my car with a baseball bat,” Douglas said. Even though her condo had upgraded its underground parking security, it was still being targeted by thieves — most recently in January of this year.
Douglas decided enough was enough, and began the process to form a citizen crime watch group. Deanna Boudreau joined in as co-captain. Boudreau’s vehicle had been stolen twice in the two years she’s lived in Harrison: one was never found, and the other ended up being Harrison’s Corner Cafe with the insurance papers taken out of it.
“I don’t know if they were just to remember our address so they could come back and steal it again and take the stereo when we got a new one,” she said. “But that’s made me nervous.”
Statistics from the Agassiz RCMP show that crime isn’t necessarily on the increase for Harrison: property crime has averaged around 100 calls a year for the last three years, and has actually gone down since 2018. But, Sgt. Mike Sargent said, property crime is unpredictable and that makes it more of a challenge to police.
“You’re almost at the mercy of who just up and decides to … pass through Harrison,” Sargent said. “There’s no way to predict when a group from Mission or a group from Surrey or Langley is going to come to our community and commit those crimes.”
According to Sargent, the majority of property crimes committed in Harrison aren’t done by people living in Harrison or Agassiz, but rather by people passing through the community. They come, there is a cluster of vehicles thefts or break-ins, and then they are gone.
“That’s where Block Watch or Citizens on Patrol can be a big help,” he said. “It’s a huge bonus to us to have people within the community being the eyes and ears to help us out, as far as providing information.”
Right now, Douglas and Boudreau are co-captains of Harrison’s Block Watch, with around a dozen other people having come on board to keep a watchful eye on the community as well. This isn’t the first Block Watch to get startd in the community, but it is hoping to be the most expansive: covering the condos along Esplanade, as well as the residential subdivisions and even up Rockwell Drive.
The Agassiz RCMP have provided the group with information on how to kick off the program, and signs will be going up around the village soon.
Eventually, both Douglas and Boudreau are hoping they will be able to take a more active role in monitoring through a Citizens on Patrol collective.
Block Watch allows people to keep an eye on their neighbourhood, and report suspicious activity they may see to the RCMP. Citizens on Patrol would see volunteers cruising through the village in the evenings and on weekends.
“Rather than keeping an eye out in your own neighbourhood waiting for something to happen, you’re out there, you’re looking. There’s more engagement,” Sargent explained. He noted that Citizens on Patrol is not a vigilante group, but instead allows volunteers to provide more information to the RCMP if things are out of place.
Citizens on Patrol didn’t get off the ground just yet because COVID-19 has made training more challenging, but both women hope it will happen in the future. They also hope to have a dedicated Citizens on Patrol vehicle, which would need to come from a third-party.
Boudreau in particular hopes that more people will get involved with Citizens on Patrol, so that volunteers don’t have to take so much of their time to make sure the village is being observed.
“For one evening a month, for four or five hours, … to take our community back and make it crime free, to me that’s worth it,” she said. “I think everyone else feels that too.”