Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Smashing Success in Chilliwack

Two weeks ago I gave a book talk at an elementary school in Chilliwack, British Columbia to the Chilliwack Outdoors Club. Chilliwack sits at the confluence of the Fraser and Chilliwack Rivers (Vedder) at the northern limits of the Cascades. It is a strikingly beautiful area of broad fertile floodplains surrounded by towering summits. The community is small and quiet and not too far from the US Border, about 100 kilometers east of Vancouver. Unfortunately Vancouver's drug influenced street crime has swept into this small community.

Before presenting my talk I headed to the Vedder River Trail in town to do a run. At a very popular parking lot in broad daylight was a smashed out window in a van. Smash and grab- someone's nice walk or run was about to finish on a sour note. I headed to another parking lot-and opted not to park there for the ruffians that were loitering there. Traveled again to yet another parking lot-seemed quiet enough but plenty of broken windshield glass in the parking lot still demanded vigilance.

At the club meeting before my talk, reports were given to the amount of car break-ins that were occurring at area trailheads. Then the unimaginable happened. While I was presenting my slide show and talk to 80 enthusiastic outdoorspeople, nefarious souls were cruising the school parking lot outside. One of the members returned to her vehicle with a smashed out window. The crooks absconded with a jacket-she knew better than to leave anything of value in her car.

I quickly concluded (and later confirmed through research) that car break ins are a serious concern in the Chilliwack Valley. Why? Club Members hypothesize that homeless druggies from Vancouver are drifting east to set up camp in the valley where law enforcement is lax. Also large numbers of alcoholic First Nations members live outside of town. And of course the overlying permissive attitudes of so many Canadians on drug use. One club member told me that at least in the US when you catch one of these doped out scoundrels you lock them up for six years. We in Canada just set them free over and over again!

Drug use is not a victimless crime. Burglaries and car break ins are almost overwhelmingly being done by no-good junkies. True, in America we are a bit tougher on the window smashing dirt bags than in Canada- if we can catch them. But we still don't seem to take this problem serious enough. In Chilliwack it is affecting tourism not to mention disrupting honest people's lives and costing them dearly in property damage and peace of mind. Many hikers are avoiding the region especially when parking at certain trailheads almost guarantees that you'll be a victim. This is a failure of government not to protect its law abiding citizens. Stake these trailheads out and arrest and lock up the perpetrators. Then sentence them to mandatory detox and work camps in the public lands repairing the damage they have wrought. If they don't come clean, keep them locked up!

In the current economic downturn it is only going to get worst. Places in Washington like the Mountain Loop Highway and Olympic Peninsula have been hot beds of trailhead crime even during good economic times. I dread thinking about the increase in crime that we are about to experience. One need only to look at the Chilliwack Valley to see what is coming. Such a shame-and aside from property loss and general hassles these tweaking dirt bags endanger people's lives. Get them out of our forests now!

Lock them up (not in prisons with violent criminals but in work camp drug detention centers)- clean them up-make them pay back their way into society-and if they can't contribute to society in a positive way then they need not be readmitted to it. And for law abiding citizens- how much longer will you tolerate your government's failure to keep your public lands safe? Instead of regulating what I can eat, read, listen to, and what kind of car I can drive- how about spending that energy going after the dregs in society-the one's who pay little in taxes (if any) but drain the coffers because of their irresponsible behavior. And I dread to think of the consequences if our government doesn't start making law enforcement a priority in our public lands. You think gun sales went up during Obama's election win? Wait until you see what happens as this economy continues to tank.

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