Port Alberni RCMP are warning against people taking the law into their own hands, after a case of mistaken identity led to an innocent person being assaulted last week.
“We do not need to get into vigilantism,” Inspector Brian Hunter said in response to vigilantism tied to a recent rise in property crime.
Last weekend, a property crime victim was posting surveillance photos of two individuals on Facebook and asking the community to identify them. They received a name, and a group of people came to the identified person’s door on Sunday.
“They were yelling and screaming,” the incorrectly accused individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the AV News. “They started pushing me. They were positive that I was the one.”
The original break-and-enter victim has now been arrested and is facing charges of assault and uttering threats. The incorrectly accused man received a number of injuries from the altercation, and is now unable to return to work.
“There’s no working in my current situation,” he said. “I can barely walk.”
He added that he has been psychologically affected by the attack.
“I was in extreme shock,” he said. “I’m still suffering. Not just physically.”
The assault victim said he will soon be leaving to spend some time away from the community.
“It isn’t very good on the image of the community when you have members of the community acting like idiots and bullies,” he said.
Hunter pointed out that Port Alberni has a strong social network.
“What I do want is for the community to get engaged, share information with the police, and then let us do the policing,” he said.
He said that community members can help the RCMP by calling and reporting any suspicious activity. Earlier this month, a business owner in the community noticed a pair of suspicious individuals in their store and was able to take photos of the individuals, as well as their vehicle.
“Unbeknownst to the business owner, they were actually helping us solve crimes that hadn’t even happened yet,” said Hunter.
As a direct result of the business owner’s assistance, persons of interest have been identified in relation to a spree of overnight auto thefts.