South Peace News
Three male youth are facing criminal charges after assaulting the owner/manager of Tomato Boy in broad daylight inside his store Sept. 19.
The incident occurred in High Prairie at 1:18 p.m. when two boys entered the store. The victim, Greg Radstaak, says they were trying to steal booze. A scuffle ensued before police arrived. Upon arrival, they arrested two of the boys Radstaak was fighting with, the third was quickly arrested. He had already left the scene after becoming involved in the attack. Two others serving as lookouts escaped.
High Prairie RCMP S/Sgt. Bruce Tarzwell described the incident as a “shoplifting gone bad”.
“In an attempt to get stuff an altercation ensued,” he says.
Any injuries Radstaak suffered were minor. He did not seek treatment at hospital and quickly returned to work.
One of the boys is facing charges of uttering threats, possession of property obtained by crime, assault, and assault with a weapon. The other two boys face a single count of assault. Ages were not disclosed but all are in their upper teens.
All three boys appeared before a justice of the peace next day and were released under conditions.
Radstaak declined comment because the incident is before the courts, but he did let South Peace News watch the video. A clear scuffle ensues with Radstaak being punched and kicked and an attempt to tear his clothes off. One boy brandishes what appears to be a collapsible metal baton.
Tarzwell says crime – especially theft – is on the increase in the High Prairie area but there is a plan in place.
“We have some stuff in the works,” he says. “I’ll call it staying safe.”
Police plan to be proactive and meet with business owners to provide tips on staying safe. The Lock it or Lose It program is featured on page 12. Videos are also posted on the High Prairie Facebook page to give advice to business owners.
Once again, Tarzwell is pleading with the public to organize Citizens on Patrol, which acts independently from the RCMP, although police will assign a liaison to work with them.
“We’d like to re-energize that,” he says.
One High Prairie businessman is trying his best to deter crime and let people know theft is on the rise. POPS Home Hardware owner/manager Ron Shunter is patrolling streets during all hours of the day looking for suspicious activity.
“Theft has been terrible all summer long,” says Shunter, adding POPS has not been the only victim. He cites other victims as being Tolko, Prairie River Manor, Dennis Hazen, the Friendship Centre building, and Stuart Olson Construction building the addition at Pleasantview Lodge.
“It’s endless, he says. “For the most part it’s been the same group.”
He adds he has found stashes of stolen property in cemeteries, and certain home properties. Landlords have also been victims.
“I’ve spent a lot of time following these guys,” says Shunter.
Police continue to investigate and the Town of High Prairie’s peace officers have changed hours to try and curb the problem.
“It’s been going on so long, (town peace officers) have (changed) their hours,” says Shunter. “I have to give them credit.”
Shunter would like to see more community engagement from police, which Tarzwell says they will do. Shunter also asks the community get more involved.
“The community should be accountable to work with the RCMP,” he says.
“The method of policing in the community has changed. There isn’t that engagement. How come I’m the only one driving around town at night?”
The bottom line, Shunter adds, is awareness.
“We do need assistance from the community as a whole, adding it can be as simple as asking suspicious people why they are on someone’s property without permission.
“The other night Greg (Radstaak) had some chainsaws stolen. He didn’t know how bad (theft) was. The issue is there aren’t enough people who know how bad it is.”
Shunter is also concerned about the lack of coverage in town. Tarzwell says the thieves are not stupid, they sometimes divert police away to rural areas on false calls, then commit crimes in town. Police have no choice but to respond to the calls. It only perpetuates the problem.
“The bandits are stealing night after night after night,” says Shunter.