Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2006
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Goldstream News Gazette
Author: Edward Hill


Drug-fuelled street crime is a booming business in the West Shore, 
with break-ins and thefts already spiking past 2005 numbers -- and 
police say worse is yet to come.

 From January to August, West Shore RCMP recorded 338 
break-and-enters, a 70 per cent jump compared to the same period in 
2005. For all of last year, 314 cases were reported.

Vehicle break-ins have doubled this year, with 785 reported incidents 
to the end of August. The first eight months of 2005 had 390 cases, 
and the entire year had 572.

Cpl. Brian Kerr, with the West Shore RCMP street crime unit, says the 
reason is basic: drug addictions result in criminal activity. More 
and more people are feeding cocaine and crystal methamphetamine 
habits with property thefts, a trend that's on the upswing.

"I don't think it's happening now as much as it's going to," Kerr 
said. "It's evident the problem is growing. Crystal meth is a 
concern, but cocaine use is going up like crazy."

Kerr says a small core of about a dozen crystal meth users break into 
cars, seeking credit cards, cash and goods that can be sold on the 
street. Some thieves can hit 20 cars in a night, and arresting even a 
two or three can put a dent in the numbers.

Credit card fraud in particular is a common calling card of the 
crystal meth subculture, Kerr said, outside of stealing hard cash. He 
pointed out the two young meth-addicted thieves who broke into a bait 
car on Sept. 7 at Thetis Lake, eight minutes after it was parked, 
went right for the planted credit cards.

That case is indicative for other reasons. The 19-year-old Langford 
man caught was riding a stolen bicycle, and the attempted theft took 
place before 8 a.m.

Many meth addicts tinker with stolen bikes and computer parts to keep 
their hands busy, and they tend to go on the prowl before daybreak. 
Seeing young guys zipping around on stolen bikes at 4 or 5 a.m. is 
common, Kerr said.

Langford, Colwood and View Royal take the brunt of break-and-enters 
and auto crime, but Metchosin and Highlands are fast becoming targets 
of choice.

Thieves now hit rural areas regularly because security is lax, cars 
are more likely to be unlocked and police have a longer response time.

"If they are compromised they have time to get away because it takes 
us longer to get out there," Kerr said.

West Shore RCMP nab thieves and dealers often, but most are released 
back to their parents, or under court conditions they tend to break. 
Like most areas, petty criminals in the West Shore play a game of 

Few spaces are open in rehab centres, Kerr said, and most young users 
come from abusive or broken homes, and often have little adult 
oversight. Crystal meth, too, is a viciously hard habit to break.

Kerr said for unknown reasons, cocaine is becoming an openly accepted 
drug, popular among all sectors of West Shore society.

For instance, a cell phone seized from a coke dealer rang at least 
every 90 seconds for hours with eager customers. When a sting was set 
up to see who was buying, Kerr said it was everyone from a 
"15-year-old kid to 42-year-old moms from Triangle Mountain."

"Doctors say the number of average people with coke problems is 
growing," Kerr said.

Kerr doubts drug users are being pushed out to the West Shore from 
other municipalities. The area, he said, is experiencing home-grown crime.

"The community is growing. With more and more people you get more and 
more big city problems."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Elaine