Some Kelowna residents are frustrated with the prevalence of crime in their city.
Members of the “Take Back Kelowna” Facebook group feel as though they have to take action to decrease theft within the community.
James Wellington, founder and admin of the group, said that they are “getting tired of the property theft in Kelowna.”
He said that the group was formed with the intention of getting more people in Kelowna involved and invested in reporting crime.
“We are not a vigilante group,” said Wellington. Instead, he encourages members to report crimes or suspicious activity on the Lightcatch app, in the Facebook group, and to the police, rather than interfering themselves.
The basis of the group is just to have more eyes on the street, explained Wellington. The purpose is to create a hub where people can share information, as crime “seems to be getting out of control.”
Wellington said that the admins are keeping a close eye on activities in the group and vet all applicants with a questionnaire. The group currently has 649 members. Additionally, he said that admins ensure convicted thieves are not let into the group by performing a criminal check of their name on CSO, a publicly-available database.
The Kelowna police have expressed concerns about the ‘Take Back Kelowna’ Facebook group.
“The RCMP acknowledges the frustration being voiced by many in our community who are concerned about property crime in Kelowna,” said Const. Mike Della-Paolera, Kelowna RCMP.
Della-Paolera acknowledged that prolific property crime is on the rise in Kelowna, fueled by complex social issues and a set approach in the justice system, enabling individuals re-offend.
Della-Paolera cautioned people against joining a group outside of police sanctions.
“Citizens have the right to feel safe in their communities, but when citizens take the law into their own hands, things can go wrong, very quickly… It is easy to find yourself in a dangerous situation, or in legal hot water.”
Wellington said that the group has no immediate intention of stopping crime themselves. He said that group “patrols” may be organized in the future, but would be used for reporting purposes only.
Della-Paolera encourages concerned citizens to volunteer with organizations in Kelowna like the block connector program, and to observe, record, and report criminal activity to Crime Stoppers, the RCMP or bylaw officers.
Wellington said that the Take Back Kelowna group has contacted the RCMP, asking to collaborate and “help out,” but have not yet received a reply.