Oak Bay Police take crime prevention on holiday

Residents invited to contact police before they leave on vacation

Preparation for vacation includes cancelling the paper, getting a neighbour to bring in the mail, and in Oak Bay, notifying the police of your impending departure.

The vacant home program – designed for those vacationing for a week or three at a time – marks a year on Aug. 1.

It was a response to one individual who was on a property crime spree throughout the Capital Region last summer, said Kent Thom, deputy chief of Oak Bay police.

“We invited people that were going to be going on vacation to contact our police department,” he explained. “It’s designed for people who are going on a short term vacation.”

Sgt. Ian Craib came up with the idea after a little online research of similar sized departments in the U.S.

“The homes that were being targeted last summer seemed to be those who were on vacation,” Craib said. “We’re really focussing on the homes that are empty a week to three weeks.”

Residents can contact the police department and answer questions from a checklist identifying things like what vehicles should be parked at the home, or who the keyholders are.

“We do random checks throughout the time the person is away on the vacation,” Thom said. “It’s been very very well received by all the people using it.”

Between Aug. 1 2011 and the end of that year, Oak Bay police had 138 vacation home check requests. So far this year there have been 80 requests.

“People are thankful there’s  a sense of security that we are aware that their homes are vacant,” Craib said. “Being a smaller department, and not having to deal with downtown, we can do more for the residents … at this point it’s not stretching our resources.”

To have your home registered with the Oak Bay police, call 250-592-2424.

“It’s a service we provide, it’s not an obligation,” Thom noted. “It’s just a crime prevention step.”

Cops on patrol

Oak Bay police have yet to nab a thief in the act, but there have been some silly moments in the vacant home program.

“We’ve had a couple of comical occurrences,” said deputy chief Kent Thom.

For example, once a resident came home early from vacation and an officer checking the property spooked the resident who was set to call police.