Thefts followed by arson: big city crime comes to Squamish 

Big city crime seems to be commuting to the small town of Squamish. There was a spate of thefts in downtown Squamish recently, followed by four cases of arson in quick succession spread all over the town.

A section of the Chieftain hotel was burnt on May 23, followed by a fire in an apartment on Sixth Ave. in downtown Squamish on May 30. The latest building to be targeted was the Squamish BMX Racing Club moto shed, which was set on fire Tuesday, June 1.

The timing couldn't have been worse. The BMX Racing Club had been preparing for a big race that brings about 200 riders every year to Squamish. The club lost a fridge, a barbeque, some 400 medals and an expensive PA system in the fire.

The community is pitching in to donate the lost items, but it's the senselessness of the crime that disturbs Vicki Schenk, the president of the club.

"The race will go on and I think everything will fall into place, but people are really disappointed. They are like, 'why did this had to happen to our place?'" she said.

She said the incident was a mindless act of petty crime and it's especially disturbing given the fact that more than 80 per cent of club members are kids. There will be an alarm system soon and the new moto shed will have a protective metal surface around it, she added.

"It's one thing to break in and steal stuff, but burning that whole thing down, why? Now we are basically starting from the scratch." she said.

"Why" is a word that sprung to the mind of Alain Holl, the assistant manager of the Chieftain Hotel when he was called to inform about the fire. The building that was torched was an abandoned outbuilding of the hotel, but Holl said it had been broken into several times by the homeless.

"There are a lot of people on drugs in downtown Squamish and they are always looking for a place to squat. We have seen the locks broken several times before. We change the locks but they still manage to break them," he said.

Cpl. Dave Ritchie from Squamish RCMP said there are three people of interest in that the police are investigating. He said the trio is known to the police from separate cases.

"These are difficult crimes to prove. Whether this is intentional or it's just a stupid act, this is disturbing." Ricthie said.

He said the RCMP is "out all the time" but said it's tough to monitor such crimes of arson.

Arson is also suspected in a fire that destroyed an eight unit townhouse complex in December, prompting roughly 20 residents to flee the blaze. There were no injuries, but there was a risk that the fire could have spread to other complexes.

Since then the insurance company for the strata announced that they would rebuild.



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