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Sarnia has a big problem with minor theft; Police chief says help is on its way

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Cathy Dobson

Chief Derek Davis says he can’t disclose details yet but a unique policing initiative is expected by fall to stem minor theft and personal property losses plaguing Sarnia.

“We have to find a way to respond to those people victimized by crime, even if it’s minor,” Davis said Tuesday following a speech to the Golden K Kiwanis Club where he was asked about “grab and dash” incidents.

Bicycle thefts, shoplifting, porch pirates, gas drive-offs, and mischief are a significant problem in Sarnia that Davis said he wants addressed.

“If your bike gets stolen, it matters to you and we want to know about it,” Davis said.

He encouraged the public to report all crime, no matter how minor, using the Sarnia Police Services’ new online reporting system introduced in the spring.

“There’s no such thing as minor.  Just report it,” he said.

Davis told club members Sarnia Police Services intends to launch a new initiative, likely in September, that he doesn’t believe has been tried anywhere else to reduce minor crime.

He pointed to Facebook groups like Stolen Bikes of Sarnia and Stolen Items of Sarnia Ontario that have 4.1 thousand and 10,000 members respectively, numbers that Davis doesn’t believe are as high in most other communities.

It reflects a serious problem that victimizes a lot of people, he said.

While no details are being disclosed yet, the chief said the new initiative will involve community partnerships.

“We’re going to try something new,” he said. “We’re looking at some new partnerships but we’re still refining a few pieces.  Just give me a couple of months and we’ll be able announce it.

“I want people to know we’re not trapped in the paradigms of everything we’ve always done,” the chief said. “Some things won’t change because they are fundamentals of policing but other things we can look at and explore to make different choices.

“It doesn’t mean it will always work, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else,” he said.

Personal property loss – like the resident who has his garden gnome stolen – is worthy of police attention because the people who commit these types of crime often have underlying risk issues like addictions, he said.

Intervention at that level can prevent bigger crimes, Davis said.  “I see value in addressing the minor crimes because of those issues.

“We are very much looking at doing better with retail theft and some of the property crimes that people are experiencing.

“There are a lot of people being victimized in that category and that’s an area we need to address,” he said. 

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