A town held hostage

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It’s a bold statement, but it’s one that some Chesterville residents are prepared to make: “our town is being held hostage by the criminal justice system”. 

Last week, a Chesterville resident – who wishes to remain anonymous for her safety and the safety of her family – contacted the Times about rampant thefts and property crime in North Dundas. So common is the problem, she says, that she noted how she and her son have now joined the “club” of victims. 

“It may not sound like much, but our car was broken into,” said the Chesterville resident. “My son had just returned home from a happy excursion with his son. We chit-chatted about their day’s adventures. Then my son went to get ready for bed. At this point, he locked his vehicle via his key fob. Unfortunately, it was already too late. Our security cameras show the thief accessing the vehicle immediately after [my son] entered the residence.”

The thieves stole cash, a debit card and keys from the vehicle, among other things. Replacing the keys and changing the locks resulted in hundreds of dollars in losses for the man not only from the out of pocket expenses, but also from lost wages from dealing with the aftermath. 

The woman has since been fearful of being home alone. She was able to discover the names of four alleged perpetrators from four break-ins that occurred that same night, but unfortunately, witnesses to these incidents are fearful to come forward because they know that thieves often get a “slap on the wrist” and are then released. 

“One does not have to look far into any of these person’s backgrounds, and you would have enough court documents to wallpaper several houses,” the woman added. “One of the perpetrators had only been released from custody on Friday. Then Saturday, out committing more crimes against this community. Their arrests, repetitive probation violations, release and re-offend records are enough to make anyone cringe. This town has had enough.”

The woman does not blame the OPP, and she finds it frustrating when the finger pointing lands squarely on local police. The police can only lay charges, after all – it’s the court system that decides how to deal with the crime.

“I am not the only one to be fearful in my own home,” added the woman. “Over the last couple days, I have received countless messages of others with those exact sentiments. It’s like a shampoo bottle cycle of rinse, lather, repeat… commit crime, arrest/release, repeat…”. 

The woman’s primary concern is that seeing no other options, Chesterville residents may soon be pushed to vigilantism. “Don’t do it,” she told the Times. Although she understands that people are being pushed to the end of their rope, she fears that vigilantes will be punished more harshly than those committing the property crimes. 

The OPP was contacted for comment and issued the following statement: “The OPP always encourages victims of property crime to report it by calling the non-urgent number 1-888-310-1122, or for emergencies, 911, and never leave valuables in plain view or in a motor vehicle. A community can also initiate a neighbourhood watch program by contacting http://www.neighbourhoodprotect.ca/neighbours/About.html.”

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