Allison Barratt posted this sign outside her home to warn her neighbours after thieves broke into her van earlier this week in Charlottetown. Police say thefts and break-ins are a growing concern.
©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Allison Barratt no longer feels safe sleeping in her own home in Charlottetown.
Earlier this week, Barratt placed gift bags filled with goodies in her van, parked neatly in her driveway. They were intended for a family with three children who live down the road — thank you gifts for helping to find her lost dog a few days prior.
She was planning to run them over in the morning with the thank you card she had brought inside the house to concoct a thoughtful message of gratitude.
But sometime before 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, thieves broke into her locked vehicle.
DVDs, some toys and games, socks and mittens, now all gone. The tissue from the gift bags was left strewn on her front lawn. Other personal items were also taken.
So, too, was her sense of security.
“I thought Charlottetown was going to be a nicer place to live,” said Barratt, who moved to Prince Edward Island a few years ago.
She no longer feels safe in her neighbourhood, so she plans to install an alarm system in her house and car. This means she can no longer afford a trip she was planning to British Columbia to see her sister, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.
“This has had a really horrible domino effect on my life. Now I can’t afford to go visit my sister, now I can’t take the art class I was signed up for because all my art supplies are gone,” she said.
“Now I’m afraid. Now everybody that walks by, I’m suspicious of and I’m wondering — is it the house next? Is it the dogs next? What next?”
It’s an alarming reality many Charlottetown residents are now facing.
On any given day, there are new incidents of theft, break-ins and shoplifting throughout the city, according to Charlottetown police.
Deputy police Chief Richard Collins says it is an “ongoing concern.”
“We do apprehend people, however, it seems like you apprehend one individual, but there’s another person on the go. There always seems to be someone coming in to take their place.”
But the culprits are not just stereotypical thugs and villains, like the kind portrayed in movies and comic books.
An increasing number of these thieves are young offenders and some of them come from more stable, secure homes.
Growing rates of addiction to prescription drugs and other substances in P.E.I. are causing more and more Islanders to turn to crime, Collins said.
“You can’t have that type of situation and not expect to have the criminal activity that goes with it,” he noted.
“That can be substantiated by talking to the courts, by talking to people who work in addictions, talking to people out at the provincial correctional centre.”
That’s why city police are applauding the recent government announcement of two new facilities for youths — one to treat addictions and the other to help youths suffering with mental health conditions.
“We’re glad to see that, we’re glad to see more beds because we agree with a lot of other people out there that a good proportion of the criminal activity is related to addiction issues,” Collins said.
“Hopefully now that pocket of them will not be committing criminal activity.”
• Install a good quality deadbolt lock on the door and a security strike plate on the door frame.
• Place a dowel or stick in a sliding window or door track.
• Garages are a favourite target for thieves. Keep your garage door locked, even when you are at home.
• Before going on vacation, cancel or redirect your mail and deliveries.
• Do not post that you are out of town on social networks, i.e. Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.