Manitoba

Staff at Swan River radio station begin night patrols after break-in attempts, threat

CJ104 said in a Facebook post that its staff will carry out night patrols, and that "any patrols or overnight occupancy efforts will include at least one member who is licensed to carry firearms" after a series of attempted break-ins and a threat to the station.

Facebook post says station's staff will patrol 'with at least 1 member who is licensed to carry firearms'

Radio station CJ104 in Swan River, Man. The station's owner says it has been the subject of several attempted break-ins and a threat to burn it down in recent weeks. (Google Earth)

Staff at a radio station in Swan River, Man., say they're taking matters into their own hands after dealing with several attempted break-ins and a threat they say police are not taking seriously.

But both the RCMP and the town's mayor say the actions proposed by the station are unacceptable.

In a social media post published Friday night, CJ104 said it had received an anonymous threat to burn the station down, which was preceded by a rash of break-ins and break-in attempts.

As a result, staff have been patrolling the area in the station's vehicles due to "the lack of police presence in Swan River," the post said.

The Facebook post goes on to say that the station has made the decision "that any patrols or overnight occupancy efforts will include at least one member who is licensed to carry firearms."

"This is not a decision we take lightly," the post said.

"We assure you that any such efforts will be within the scope of the appropriate firearms laws."

The post also said that if anything happens that makes the station's staff feel their lives are in danger, "they have been instructed to use lethal means" to end the threat.

Staff frustrated and scared 

Bill Gade, who runs the radio station, says his staff are frustrated and scared, and feel like the police aren't protecting them.

In one of the attempted break-ins, Gade said, someone cut the power and phone lines at the station.

"When we have staff and someone's trying to break into the building … I don't know what that person's intentions are," he said.

"I have to suspect these people have something more than just breaking in for the fun of it."

Asked if his staff will be patrolling the town while carrying firearms, Gade said that's not what the post was implying.

"No one ever said that. We said someone would have a licence," he said.

The post was still on the station's Facebook page as of 1 p.m. Saturday.

Risk to public safety, RCMP says 

RCMP spokesperson Robert Cyrenne said Swan River RCMP became aware of the post Friday night and immediately contacted the station "to explain that promoting this type of armed vigilante activity is not acceptable."

If the station's staff are caught engaging in such an activity, they will be stopped by RCMP as it is a clear risk to public safety, he said. 

Cyrenne also said RCMP are investigating the threats made against the station.

Asked to respond to Gade's concerns, Cyrenne said Swan River RCMP will respond to all calls that require police assistance, and will follow up on all complaints and carry out comprehensive investigations as required.

"Public safety is our priority, and Swan River residents can be assured that our officers, who also live in the community, are committed to providing the best policing services possible," he said.

Swan River Mayor Glen McKenzie said he was concerned to hear residents were thinking of taking the law into their own hands.

"I know they have concerns, and maybe they're frustrated that maybe things aren't moving as fast as they would like, but the RCMP are the professionals, and they're trained to deal with these kinds of things," he said.

"So I'd say let them do their jobs."

Swan River is about 500 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

About the Author

Sarah Petz

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. She was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. Her career has taken her across three provinces and includes a stint in East Africa. In 2017, she was part of a team of reporters and editors nominated for a National Newspaper Award for a feature on the Port of Saint John in New Brunswick. She can be reached at sarah.petz@cbc.ca.