British Columbia

Tiny home stolen amidst uptick in property crime in Prince George

An apparent surge in property crime in Prince George, including the theft of a tiny house, has some locals so upset, they're talking of taking matters into their own hands.

Some victims are so frustrated by the thefts they've begun openly debating doing something about it themselves

'Essentially, if it's not nailed down, it may go missing, and large objects are not immune to that,' says Prince George RCMP Supt. Shaun Wright, pictured here in 2017. (Wil Fundal/CBC)

An apparent surge in property crime in Prince George, including the theft of a tiny house, has some locals so upset, they're talking of taking matters into their own hands.

Almost 8,000 people — 10 per cent of Prince George's population  — have now joined a social media group, Stolen Prince George, that's committed to recovering stolen items — within the law.

Recent posts describe the thefts of a full-size trampoline, children's bikes, a lunch bag, tools, tires, trucks, trail cams, and even a tiny house.

Daphne Bargy said her nephew had been saving since childhood to build himself a home on wheels.

When the tiny house vanished from his family's front yard, Bargy was mystified, because it weighs more than three tonnes, requires a special hitch to haul, and was parked out of sight.

"We were all completely devastated," said Bargy. `We work hard for what we own."

When Bargy posted the theft online, she was contacted within hours by someone who'd spotted the stolen home 20 kilometres away. 

Bargy and her family headed to a property near the city, where they spotted the tiny home, partially disguised by plastic.

Bargy said they waited for RCMP to arrive before taking it back. But she understands why some people might not wait for police. 

"The [police] emergency services are just overwhelmed with what's going on," said Bargy. "We wanted to go in there and find those people [responsible]."

'You want something done'

"I don't think it's fair that if somebody breaks into my property and if I take a bat, I'm going to get  in more trouble than the person stealing my stuff," said Bargy, who said she won't actually turn to violence.

But tempers are flaring on Stolen Prince George.

Concerned about an uptick in property crime, some people in Prince George talk about taking the law into their own hands. The moderator has been taking the comments down and reminding people that type of discussion is inappropriate but also says it reflects people's frustration. (Facebook/Tracy Arrowsmith)

"People are definitely frustrated and wanting to take matters into their own hands," said Tracy Arrowsmith, a  group moderator. "I have to remove threats of violence just about every day. [Thefts] are pretty bad right now. And there is only so much the police can do."

Brian Skakun is also concerned about vigilante justice, as more and more people share their frustrations with being robbed.

Truck thief stole councillor's trail cams 

Skakun, a city councillor, has been hit by thieves.

It happened after his wildlife trail cams captured a suspect torching a stolen truck and making a getaway on a scooter. 

Skakun believes the truck thief must have been lurking online, because after Skakun posted the images to social media, he says his trail cams were ripped from the trees and taken. 

A wildlife trail cam near Prince George captured this image of a suspect making a getaway on a scooter after a stolen truck was torched. (Facebook/Brian Skakun)

"Stealing trail cams, that's just hitting the bottom of the barrel," said Skakun, who normally captures moose, bears, and lynx on the cams to share with wildlife enthusiasts. 

"People are saying: 'Look I've had it. The RCMP can't make it out all the time. If I get people in my yard, you know, they're basically finished,'" said Skakun.

Skakun urges locals to rely on police and "not turn to vigilantism." 

Prince George RCMP Supt. Shaun Wright said thefts do appear to be on the rise, but a change in how crime statistics are measured makes it more difficult to know for certain.

He said concerns about thefts may appear more serious than they are, because thieves are always more active in the summer, and locals are sharing details on social media. Still, he said people need to take precautions. 

'If it's not nailed down, it may go missing': RCMP

"Essentially, if it's not nailed down, it may go missing, and large objects are not immune to that," Wright told CBC. 

Wright said police response times may be slower because of a rise in more serious calls.  

"I get the sense of violation and the frustration but I do want to urge people to continue to call the police. If we don't know what's happening, there's absolutely nothing we can do to address it," he said.

"I wish things were like 30 years ago in a small town, when you could leave the keys in the car and the wallet on the front console," said Wright. "Unfortunately that's not where we're at anymore."

About the Author

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener is an award-winning journalist and author. She's been covering the news in central and northern British Columbia for more than 15 years.

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