NEWS FEATURE: Keeping an eye out

Having neighbours watch for suspicious behaviour can reduce property crime in Oak Bay

As a block captain

As a block captain

The weather was hot, the window was open.

But the residents of a house in the 2300-block of Windsor Road weren’t home on Sept. 4.

An intruder zeroed in on the window and climbed inside the house, where they found keys to a 1998 Honda Accord that was parked in the garage.

Oak Bay police said the car was used to drive around the block to a house on Monterey Avenue, where a 1988 GMC Jimmy was broken into, but not stolen.

The Accord has not yet been found.

While police continually warn residents to keep their home windows and doors locked and suggest installation of a security system, Block Watch programs are another effective way of reducing crime in Oak Bay neighbourhoods.

“One of the things that a lot of people have concerns about is burdening police with work they don’t think is applicable,” said Const. Laurence Riel, community liaison officer with Oak Bay police.

“It may not mean anything to you, but that little event could be the one piece of evidence that could break a case open.”

Jacqui Schoffner, Block Watch captain for Carrick Street, said people shouldn’t hesitate to call police.

“It is (so important),” she said.

“I don’t know how you can over-emphasize, to call the police if you see anything strange. It sounds simple, but people feel foolish and it’s hard to tell people that it’s not foolish.”

Block Watch members discuss crime trends and ways to keep their properties safe. There are about 60 such groups in Oak Bay working closely with police to report and solve property crimes.

Schoffner has heard of residents going out to talk to suspicious characters in their yards before calling police – those suspects are generally long gone before officers can arrive to investigate.

In general, Riel said, residents should “err on the side of caution” when securing their homes. Such a strategy is doubly important now, with a rash of break-ins recently in the municipality – 15 in just over two weeks.

“I’ve been here for so long and to see that many break-ins over a 15-day span, that’s just unheard of,” Riel said. “This is definitely an influx and it’s unusual for this area – it’s something we need to address right away.”

This summer, Oak Bay police started a service for residents who planned to be away on vacation, yet were concerned for the safety of their property. Residents inform police of the dates they are away, and officers drive by or walk around the property while on patrol to ensure nothing is awry.

Riel also heads the department’s home security audit service. The program entails a walk-through by police to determine a house’s security weak spots and strong points, plus suggestions for easy fixes to address flimsy security.

Break-in numbers trending downward

Police painted a rosier picture of the home and vehicle theft problem this week.

Oak Bay Police Department Deputy Chief Kent Thom reported that thefts from vehicles were down last week, plus home break-ins had dropped considerably.

However, the drop coincided with an increase in suspicious persons calls, he said.

“Factors influencing this trend are the greater awareness residents have of their surroundings,” Thom said. “Residents are urged to call police if they see anything that seems suspicious in nature.”

Here’s how to get involved in Block Watch:

• email or call 250-592-2424

• Ask about existing Block Watch captains in your neighbourhood

• Ask for an application package to start your own Block Watch

• Talk to neighbours about getting involved and hosting meetings

• For more info, visit

Just Posted

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Barriers to rental housing brought on by no-pet rules add stress to renters, says councillor. (Pixabay)
Saanich councillor wants to remove barriers to housing for pet owners

Motion calling for province to amend lease stipulations against pet ownership defeated in 5-4 vote

A sketch of the multi-use path that will connect Lagoon Beach and Royal Beach in Colwood. (Sketch courtesy of the City of Colwood)
Concepts for Colwood beach connector coming to council June 21

Major infrastructure project includes gathering places, public amenities and pathways

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Most Read