Time to Lock the Doors? - Rash of Vandalism Hits Rossland

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
March 26th, 2009

Several incidents of vandalism and theft around our city in the last month have gotten some people wondering whether or not this might be a growing trend in our relatively peaceful mountain town, or just a few random acts clumped together.

Most recently, on March 18th, the RCMP responded to a break and enter at the Rossland Liquor Store. While the investigation is still ongoing it was determined that at sometime between midnight and 12:50 AM the suspect(s) used a steel-framed sandwich board style sign from across the street to smash the window of the front door. The perpetrators then entered the store and left with a variety of liquor bottles.

The RCMP noted that the incident occurred over spring break, a time in which there is heavier than usual foot traffic along Columbia Avenue later in the evenings. They currently do not have any suspects but are requesting that anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area within that time frame to call either the RCMP detachment of Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Possibly more disheartening to the community was the discovery in early March of thousands of dollars of vandalism in the Lion’s Campground. The damage was focussed on the covered picnic area in the park which had the large brick BBQ/ fireplace demolished. Every fluorescent light in the building was smashed; one picnic table was broken as well as the electric power meter.

“They are lucky they didn’t get electrocuted or set the place on fire. Also I believe there is a picnic table destroyed as well,” said Lions Club member Jim Albo.

It is suspected that whoever caused the destruction likely drove down to the site on the road which is normally closed in the winter but had been plowed and left unblocked to allow access to the picnic area for the Rossland Winter Carnival. The road has since been blocked again and vehicle access to the site has been restricted.

The act occurred somewhere around the second or third week of February. In early March a group of Lions went down to the park and discovered the vandalism. The RCMP came and investigated the site but the lengthy delay between when the act occurred and when it was discovered has hindered hopes of finding those responsible for the damage.

Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom briefly mentioned in his mayor’s report at the March 23rd council meeting that he will be looking into possibly setting up some type of reward to help solve the crime.

“I’m going to be having a meeting with the RCMP Staff Sergeant to see if it’s feasible to have the city offer some type of reward. I’m going to talk to him about it because it’s pretty hard for the city to administer it. Once I talk to the RCMP I’ll have a better idea if it’s possible. Everyone seems to think that it might help,” explained Granstrom in a phone conversation earlier this week. “I think if we can provide some incentives for some people to come forward we might find out who it was and if that’s not the case then we might at least deter some of this. It would have to be an amount that works, it can’t be like $10–but we have to discuss that with the RCMP to see what we can do.”

While no official estimate has been done on the value of the damage Albo estimates that it is likely in the $2,000 to $4,000 range with many hours of volunteer labour to return the structure to its former state.

“We’ve just had one meeting since it happened so we haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and talk about it yet. Once the snow disappears we’ll get down there and look around to decide what we need to do. We’re probably looking at anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 to fix it up. You never know how much the labour will cost as we need a brick layer to do the BBQ portion unless some of our guys have done brick laying before,” added Albo.

For years, the Lions club has been operating the campground as its main source of raising funds, money which goes to the various grants and donations they make each year to organizations or folks in need.

“Every dollar that we have to spend on repairing it now to repair it is a dollar that we can’t give to a worthwhile cause,” explained Albo. “The campground is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Of the dollars that we donate 99% of it is generated by the park. It generally raises 10,000 to 12,000 dollars each year so this takes a pretty good chunk out of that, not to mention the hours we’ll have to put in to clean it up. It’s just senseless destruction.”

The good news side of the story is that since the vandalism took place Albo has been stopped on the street and receiving phone calls from a number of concerned citizens on how they can help out either financially or by getting their hands dirty and pitching in to rebuild the picnic shelter.

Thoughts of whether or not vandalism and theft are a rising trend were further bolstered by reports this past weekend of a number of cars being broken into in the Pinewood area. While the victims preferred to remain anonymous, they noted that at least two or three cars that they know of were broken into in their neighbourhood. In late February in upper Rossland several cars in the Spokane St. area were broken into as well, with small change and CDs being the bulk of the loss. Unfortunately for the victims, and fortunately for the thieves, Rossland’s friendly, unassuming nature sees many people leaving their cars and houses unlocked. This recent rash of thefts may have some people rethinking their unguarded nature.

As to whether or not the recent spate of events is a growing trend or not, Mayor Granstrom believes that vandalism comes and goes in cycles and that Rossland shouldn’t fear a rising tide of criminal activity.

“From my years in public works, vandalism like that, in my opinion, comes and goes in cycles. You get a few bad people around and you have vandalism for a little while and then they move on and it’s quiet for a while. I think it was 2004 or 2005 when I was on council we had quite a rash of vandalism and then it went away for a few years and it looks like it’s back. I think its cyclical.”

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