Oceanside Community Safety Volunteers (OCSV) offer a dozen public safety and crime prevention programs, help the Oceanside RCMP minimize crime in the community and now offer a virtual crime map to easily locate incidents that occurred in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.
The map includes pins for incidents included in the OCSV’s current crime watch report (green pins), the previous crime watch report (yellow pins) and incidents from three weeks or older (red pins). Crime watch reports detail property crime incidents and complaints that are reported to the Oceanside RCMP each week.
“As part of our partnership with the RCMP, we have the ability to get information from them on a weekly basis. What you see on the map on our website is basically property crime and you’ll get motor vehicle as well,” said Mike Garland, OCSV program administrator. “The whole idea is to prepare the community and say these things are happening in your community.”
Garland said the map is updated and run by a member of the community who showed interest in informing the public about the property crime happening throughout Parksville Qualicum Beach.
The map shows a busy cluster of red, yellow and green pins that each detail a crime that occurred and when. So far in 2019, 5,026 complaints have been made to the Oceanside RCMP, and these are included in the OCSV’s crime watch reports.
Garland says there’s a misconception that crime is up in Parksville Qualicum Beach when he believes it’s the reporting that is increasing, making the public more aware of crime that’s happening.
“We believe, selfishly, because of our awareness campaigns, more people are reporting,” he said. “It’s not so much more crime but it’s getting better-reported now.”
Another way crime is being brought to the public eye in a more heightened way then ever before is through social media. Thieving awareness sites have been appearing on Facebook for almost every community on Vancouver Island. For residents between Nanoose and Deep Bay, it’s the Facebook page Thieving Awareness Parksville, Qualicum And Areas that the public (if a member of the group) use to report crime or suspicious activity they have witnessed.
Although these sites can bring some awareness to community crime, Garland said they can also lead to assumptions and be nonfactual.
“We’re taught not to assume,” Garland said. “I think at the end of the day you have to look at the facts and that’s what people don’t look at.”
He added that the sites should eliminate the comment sections because that’s “where it gets personal.”
Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman, said RCMP members have a general awareness of the thieving awareness sites and they do check them from time to time. He said members have no issue with the sites, but their concern is that they should be a secondary option and the first call should always be to the police with information about crime or suspicious activity.
“The other thing that can be concerning is we have seen two cases of false identifications made on [thieving awareness sites],” Foreman said.
“Naming the wrong person, that could create a lot of problems… it can be construed as uttering threats or even criminal harassment. If you went civilly it could be libel.”
Foreman added that if someone has information that could help solve a crime, they need to report it to the RCMP first and shouldn’t try to identify the suspect online.
Oceanside Community Safety Volunteers always go to the RCMP first when they observe a crime or anything suspicious while out patrolling.
“Our whole philosophy is we’re not vigilantes, our job is to be ears and eyes for the RCMP,” Garland said.
“We go out and do a patrol…we phone the RCMP dispatch before we leave so they know we’re out and they advise all the members that are in the field. If they’re looking for a vehicle, or they’re looking for a suspicious person they know there’s volunteers (patrolling).”
There are currently 140 individuals volunteering with OCSV and Garland said they’re looking for “night owls” to do patrols between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
“It would appear that a lot of crime is occurring between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. We’re always looking for those volunteers to go out,” Garland said. “We won’t allow any volunteers to go by themselves, they have to be in pairs.”
For more information, visit oceansidecsv.org.