Staff Sgt. Svend Nielsen listens to Jennifer Tanner’s (far right) community impact statement during a public meeting regarding Lac la Hache’s safety concerns on Clarke Avenue on Aug. 20. Brendan Kyle Jure photo.

A community in crisis: Lac la Hache

The citizens of Lac la Hache had a meeting with the local RCMP Staff. Sgt Svend Nielsen and Al Richmond of the Cariboo Regional District on Aug. 20 to discuss Clarke Avenue, a problematic road with what community members say has two “drug houses.”

It was the second public meeting pertaining the issue on Clarke Avenue, with somewhere between 150-170 people attending this time.

“We were also in agreement through the community members that were here at the time [of the first meeting] that we were going to have regular calls from you in regards to which you saw, what you experienced, what was going on, and that would, in turn, help us to enforce any type of action against the individuals that were living in that area,” said Nielsen. “I know we were pretty consistent for about six weeks and we did approx probably a dozen patrols for four/five days on the seven days during the week.”

Nielsen went on to say that during those six weeks, the RCMP only received three calls for service regarding Clarke Avenue. Due to this, Nielsen said it seemed like the situation was looking “fairly good” for a couple of months until it came to a head again on Aug. 11, after an impaired male allowed his truck to crash into a greenhouse and trees on a neighbour’s property, fled from police and then assaulted a police officer. The offender was eventually apprehended and released on location. The police officer who was assaulted declined to press charges. Another issue is a woman speeding at excessive speeds down community roads, including Clarke, and has yet to change her behaviour despite pleas and warnings from community members. A staff member from the Lac la Hache Elementary School also mentioned being told by several students about a woman lounging in her front yard across from the school completely nude.

“The thing basically that we need from you, from my perspective, is the calls. I was talking to somebody outside before coming into the meeting, it’s very difficult for us to do much of anything given our current staffing levels and resourcing levels… without having you – the community – present us with information on what’s going on,” said Nielsen.

Currently, the 100 Mile House RCMP detachment only has 14 members.

He added that when he looked up a Facebook post in a group in regards to the situation, he said that several people complaining about a “lack of police action” have phoned the police recently. The importance of gathering statements – court-admissible evidence – was also addressed, as opposed to information given to police in passing or through inadmissible channels.

However, many attendees of the meeting did not agree with some of what Nielsen had to say.

“My husband and I, we have two children aged 12 and 10. We live in pretty much in between the two main problem drug houses on Clarke Avenue. We live two doors up from one of them and two doors down from the other one. With the ongoing events involving the meth dealers and users who reside on Clarke Avenue, my family and myself have straight concern for our safety as well as our fellow community members. While I commend the CRD former chair, Al Richmond, for his concern in this regard, it has come apparent he grossly underestimates and does not understand the severity of the effects these meth dealers and meth users have had on our community as a whole and not just the school children that go to Lac la Hache,” said Jennifer Tanner, a resident who offered an impact statement.

Her children, she said, have not attended the Lac la Hache Elementary School for four years. She also added that many children in the neighbourhood attend different schools or are homeschooled. Her point was that the problem does not just affect the local school’s students, but children in general, as well as young mothers, the elderly and everyone else.

Tanner also mentioned the aforementioned offender.

“This was the fourth time in 13 months that this offender has put an uninsured vehicle in his ditch across his house while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Any of these incidents could have killed anybody, once the RCMP left that incident, the offender exited his residence and proceeded to go down to the property he wrecked to inspect it or maybe admire what he’s done – who knows? – but there was another resident coming up that street and he was like ‘they didn’t take you away?’ and his reply – he was actually yelling it – ‘the cops don’t have anything on me here and they can’t touch me here in Lac la Hache.’ So my question is if this person has such disregard and disrespect for RCMP members you can only imagine what it is like for us community members that live on the same street and neighbourhood as him. So why does this keep happening and why is he not dealt with appropriately? Another concern is the erratic driving that is happening on our street. It’s really not a question anymore if someone is going to get hurt or killed, it’s only a matter of time now.”

Her question was met with applause from the audience. She also went on to dispute Nielsen’s statement about only receiving three calls regarding the situation on Clarke Avenue, saying that she could remember at least three times she and her husband called the RCMP each.

Another resident raised the issue of why there aren’t two RCMP officers stationed permanently in Lac la Hache, despite paying the same taxes as residents in 100 Mile House and other South Cariboo communities.

“I, unfortunately, can’t do that at this time. There’s just no way. I can’t stick two members in 100 Mile let alone two members here in Lac la Hache,” said Nielsen. “There are about another seven other smaller communities we have to deal with, not including 100 Mile, and they all have different issues, files and calls that we attend too.”

This was not received by the attendees very well, already frustrated with their situation. Some expressed taking matters in their own hands.

“Are we going to wait until a kid is killed or someone’s killed, then we’re going to put them away?” someone yelled from the audience.

Glen Tanner also went up to make an impact statement, saying he lives in the middle of the ‘land of the walking dead.’

“I think I need to really stress how desperate we’re starting to feel in this town, especially on Clarke Avenue,” he said before detailing his experience of watching the arrest and release of the offender who allowed his truck to crash into the greenhouse. “Someone should have went to jail. Someone should have gone away, he was in handcuffs. You guys let him go and 20 minutes after you’re gone he’s up and down the streets telling us that the cops can’t do any f**cking thing to him. Now when that happens to me, I’ve been raised by old school Nova Scotians, and you guys tell me to call you time and time again from February and then one of your police officers gets assaulted by him and you’re forced not to press charges because your job is to uphold the law I lose faith in you. I will tell you right now when my children get hurt, your laws don’t matter to me.”

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Svend Nielsen addresses the audience during a public safety meeting in Lac la Hache on Aug. 20. Brendan Kyle Jure photo.

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