The Kaslo RCMP is currently investigating a rash of break-ins, they call heartless, to people and properties affected by last year’s massive landslide at Johnson’s Landing.
Thieves risked their own lives and entered the slide area to gain access to several homes within the evacuated zone and stole tools and other items.
“These poor people have been displaced, with Mother Nature victimizing them, and then these thieves have gone back to an unoccupied residence to further victimize these people — it is not very fair,” says Cpl. Shaun Begg of Kaslo. “For people to be that desperate or wanting goods that badly that they’re going to risk potentially their lives to attain some property that’s not worth that much, it just seems strange.”
On March 17, police received a report of a break and enter involving four unoccupied buildings in the Johnson’s Landing slide area. Sometime during March 11 to 16, unknown suspects broke into one residence and a garage, and then navigated their way through slide debris to access two more unoccupied residences on the south side of Johnson’s Landing.
RCMP attended the Johnson’s Landing site to speak with local residents and to conduct neighborhood enquiries. However, due to potential slope instability, officers didn’t attend two vacant residences on the south side of the slide. Warning signs remain in place and the public is cautioned not to go into the area based on geo-technical analysis.
“This area is still unstable,” said Sgt. Dan Seibel, Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment. “There’s the potential for another slide and this time of year, especially, with the rain and snowpack melting, who knows what could happen.”
The residence on Holmgren Road, where the slide claimed three victims, has an outbuilding near the property. This building was broken into and items stolen include an older Toro Ride on mower, a table saw, and an air compressor.
The property owner of a second residence located on McNichol Road, the other side of the slide, reports that he is missing a yellow “Moose” snowplow blade for his ATV, assorted hand tools, a twin mattress, 100 vinyl and 100 45-rpm records, and also an Apple laptop and desktop computer.
The owner of the third property on Holmgren Road, also on the other side of the slide, is currently accessing what property was stolen.
RCMP describe the crime as “extremely unfortunate.” Seibel was previously stationed in Kelowna during the Okanagan Mountain Park fires of 2003. Police were tasked with protecting abandoned homes from looters.
“As good as we tried to be, there were still thieves trying to take advantage of that,” he says. “I could relate it to kicking a man while he’s down. Three people lost their lives and other people have perhaps lost their homes forever. For thieves to come in and kick them when they’re down, I think that’s the ultimate low.”
These homes were likely targeted because they are known to be empty, says Seibel who saw summer cottages and homes in the Okanagan often at risk for break-ins.
“They normally barricade them up,” he says. “They are very susceptible because those areas are not well travelled in the winter months. Thieves can go in and steal things and in some cases live in those homes on a short-term basis.”
Last month, several unoccupied cabins in the Queen’s Bay area were broken into with10 cabins located between the 1500 and 1750 blocks of Highway 31 hit by thieves. There is currently no evidence to link the cases, says Seibel, but it is possible they’re related due to “the fact that there has been an unusual number of break and enters in that Balfour/Kaslo RCMP detachment area.”
RCMP is seeking the public’s assistance in this investigation. Anyone having knowledge of these incidents are asked to please contact the Kaslo RCMP at 250-353-2225 or CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-222-8477. Callers to CRIME STOPPERS remain Anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.