The Saga of my boat (published)

This is an article that was published way back in May, 1996 in The Daily Courier. The newspaper I have carried around with me all these years is starting to crumble, so I thought it best to get it saved on my site before it completely disintegrates. 

The Heading was Society must review Young Offenders Act with a sub heading of Parents, police, teachers and other young people must act together to change corrupt attitudes.

By Gary Jones

Special To The Daily Courier

For 25 years I had been visiting my parents in the Okanagan and I longed to move here. 

When I finally did in 1993 the first thing I did was fulfill a life-long dream and bought a boat. Within days of getting it, and before I could get it insured, it was stolen, set on fire and sunk.

The police had a good idea who was responsible, but they were “young offenders” and it “wasn’t worth the effort to investigate them”. They would only get a “slap on the wrist”.

My Dad and I enjoy dirt biking in the country around Kelowna. We had our bikes on a trailer parked in our driveway. Luckily, after the boat experience, we had the bikes padlocked on to the trailer and the trailer locked to the car port. In the middle of the night another “young offender” tried to steal them off the trailer. My Dad woke up just in time and we still have the bikes. He saw the kid running away, but he was another “young offender” – well known to the police but not worth pursuing.

In March I went outside and found my Jimmy had been broken into and my stereo was gone. When I phoned the insurance agent, she said she knew who it probably was. The “young offender” had moved to my area from Glenrosa, where there was a string of thefts. Now there was a string of thefts in my area. The police know who he is, but there is little they are interested in doing because he’s a young offender. This rotten little scum knows full well that nothing will happen to him and he brazenly violates other people because of it.

Where does it end? We are all victims of this Young Offender’s Act.

Yes, I am sympathetic when little Johnny, who has never done anything bad in his life, makes ONE mistake. I agree that it shouldn’t tarnish the rest of his life and he should be given a second chance. But, there has to be a better rule for kids who repeatedly commit crimes, without any regard for the consequences, because there aren’t any.

Teens are always saying they are upset that they all get “tarnished with the same brush”. They feel discriminated against and say people don’t trust them. Store owners don’t want them hanging around because of shoplifting. Home owners get nervous when they see teens in a group.

This is wrong. These hoodlums are the minority and, if asked,  I think most teens would also agree that there needs to be penalties for young offenders who repeatedly commit crimes. Our police resources are stretched to the limit. I can’t blame them for not wanting to invest a great deal of time investigating and charging young offenders, only to see them receive a slap on the wrist, time and time again.

The courts must be equally frustrated. Judges are there on behalf of society to meet out penalties based on the severity of the crimes. They must cringe when their hands are tied by the Young Offender’s Act. They know that today’s young offender is  tomorrow’s old offender.

The system is doing nothing to prevent these kids from repeating their crimes.

Let’s change the system, before we lose everything. It seems everybody talks about the horrible crime statistics in the valley and just accepts that they are a cost of growth. That’s nonsense! Most of the property crime is a direct result of not punishing young offenders.

Yes, give them the first chance if they make one mistake.

Any of us with kids wants to give them one chance to straighten out, but, if they don’t learn, then it’s time the punishment fit the crime. They’ll stop laughing at the law when they start paying for their crimes. Community Service, jail time, restitution to the victims, a criminal record – all deserved if they blow the chance they were given. If people know the system is just, they will be willing to trust those teens who stay out of trouble.

If they are broken into or stolen from they will know that the police will act and that the crime will be treated as a crime. They will not feel helpless anymore and they will respect the law again. The few really bad offenders deserve punishment and should fear it. The teens who have respect for other people’s property can be proud of themselves and we will respect them in return.

If you have been a victim of a young offender, I urge you to voice your opinion loudly to get the laws changed. Our lives will be better if we stop accepting the futility of this law and make it a crime to steal.

If you are a police officer, use whatever means available to you to voice your opinions to those who can change the laws. You know you are blamed in part when nothing is done. Work to change it and restore the respect you deserve. As those who are responsible to uphold the law help to make it a crime to steal.

If you are in the insurance industry, you know the costs of these unpunished crimes. You know young offenders are laughing at all of us by repeating their crimes, over and over again. This costs money and you have a business to run. You pass on these costs to us in higher premiums, but you are always playing “catch up”.

Let’s work together to get restitution orders to compensate for the losses. Take an active part in making the courts aware of the costs and urge them to seek compensation in every case. Show the costs and help make it a crime to steal. If you are in legal profession or the court system, make people aware of the mockery of this law and how much it costs all of us. Work to get the system changed to what you know is fair, then educate first time offenders as to what will happen if they repeat. Warn them as to what effect having a criminal record will have on them in their lives. Under the law make it a crime to steal.

If you are part of the system these kids use to sell their goods, stop being part of the problem. You know that $500 stereo system doesn’t belong to that 14 year old. Your business isn’t worth sticking your head in the sand and pretending you don’t know what’s going on. Ask questions. Report your suspicions to the police. If the deal is legit, no one has to worry. If it’s not, the more heat the better.  Without a market, life will be a lot tougher for the thieves. Your honest customers will thank you for it and will look upon you as honest business people. Stop helping them and instead show them it is a crime to steal.

If you are in the media, work to overturn the freedom from publication of the young offender names.Supportfirst-time offenders and follow-up with positive stories when the system works. Come down hard on repeat offenders. Challenge the publication ban to get the law changed. Do everything in your power to advertise that it is a crime to steal.

If you sell products that are readily stolen, educate your customers about registering serial numbers and on marking systems. Make it a part of the sale.

If you are part of the education system, work to change the attitudes to crime. Teach your students how it feels to be a victim. Warn them that it could be their homes that are broken into and their cherished possessions stolen. Tell them that these young criminals are worried so little about punishment that they break in in broad daylight and when people are around. Encourage your students to report anything they know of to the police or Crime Stoppers. Change their attitudes to friends who commit crimes. Rescue the students who are influenced by young offenders. Break the cycle. Teach them that it is a crime to steal.

If you are a parent, accept your responsibility for your children. Virtually every young offender has a parent he is responsible to. The kids who stole my boat had a mother who dropped them off at a nearby campsite every weekend, never caring about what they did. Ask questions. Support efforts to change the law, even if it may one day affect your child. Will it really be helpful to you to have your son or daughter commit crimes, knowing that they have nothing to fear? Will that make your job as a parent easier? Teach them that it is a crime to steal.

If you are a teen, I particularly urge you to get involved. Your opinions matter and your voices will be the loudest. Have the courage to scorn anybody who boasts of committing a crime. You will soon be old enough to be their victim yourself. Make them feel that it is a crime to steal.

If you are lucky enough that you haven’t been a victim yet, don’t sit back and wait. These repeat offenders will eventually get to you. Think about it. There is nothing to stop them. Don’t be tomorrow’s statistic. Even if you haven’t been a victim yet, make it a crime to steal.

If you have been a victim of any crime, you know how violated you feel. Your whole life changes when you lose the security of feeling safe. You worry about leaving your home. You worry about your children. You worry about your neighborhood. You worry about losing the peaceful environment we all cherish in the valley. Stop worrying and start acting. You know it’s a crime to steal.

Young offenders certainly don’t commit all the crimes, but stopping them will make a huge difference. If we can work to take away the freedom to repeat these crimes as kids, maybe we will also change some of them from becoming adult offenders.

If you are a repeat young offender and you see nothing wrong with braking into people’s homes and stealing from them and destroying their sense of security, damaging their lives forever, enjoy it while it lasts. We are fed up and we’re not going to take it anymore. We are all going to work together to make your lives as miserable as you have made ours.

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