Neighbours cheer on police during arrest
Bylaw officers working with the landlord, tenants and the RCMP to bring notorious home into compliance with the Good Neighbour Bylaw
Neighbours went outside to cheer last week as police arrested a man in the front yard of a notorious home at 377 Winnipeg St. in downtown Penticton.
But the bust, which ended quickly with a man being hauled away in handcuffs, fell short of the full-on raid neighbours believe is required to deal with unsavoury activity at the property.
“I thought it was going to be a major cleanout,” said one neighbour, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The dilapidated house, every window in which appears to be broken, attracts a steady stream of short-term visitors day and night. The yard is filled with an ever-changing collection of bikes, shopping carts and other seemingly random items — including a piano last winter — that show up on a regular basis.
Those living nearby suspect the home is used to traffic drugs and stolen property. They also complain about noise from people yelling, fighting and listening to loud music.
“There’s always something going on,” said the neighbour.
“There’s a part of me that knows people are allowed to live the lives they want however they want to do it,” she added, “but it’s just this constant thing.”
The house is owned by the Randhawa family, whose holdings include the Three Gables Liquor Store, over top of which a low-income rooming house was ordered closed by the B.C. Fire Commissioner in 2014 due to dangerous living conditions that left 17 residents in search of new homes.
The family could not be reached for comment on this story.
Attempts to interview residents of 377 Winnipeg St. were also unsuccessful.
A woman present during the arrest last week told The Herald, unprompted, that she could produce receipts for every bike on the property and that the house had been unfairly villainized on social media. She declined to provide further comment.
Whether its reputation is deserved or not, the house has generated eight complaints to the City of Penticton so far this year, according to development services manager Anthony Haddad.
Most of the complaints related to excessive noise or unsightly messes in the yard, he said in an email, noting bylaw officers regularly monitor the property and have been working with the landlord, tenants and the RCMP “to bring the property into compliance with the Good Neighbour Bylaw.”
Penticton RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager was unable to say precisely how many complaints police have received about the house — in part because it’s difficult to distinguish between calls related to the property and those related to its visitors — but estimated the number is on par with the eight called in to the city.
“The vast majority of our calls are for minor property offences, especially bicycles and allegations that there is a bike chop shop. In every event where police attended, we ran the serial numbers of every bike frame we could access. In only two cases did the bikes come back stolen after we seized them,” De Jager said in an email.
De Jager noted, however, that the “vast majority” of suspected stolen bikes recovered by police are untraceable because the rightful owners haven’t added their rides’ serial numbers to a database like Project 529, which is free.
“All in all, while we continue to work with the city to clean up this area, the criminality (at 377 Winnipeg St.) is less prevalent than the unsightliness and perception by the neighbours that it is a den of major crime,” De Jager continued.
“While I understand their concerns, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to call us as incidents are unfolding so that we can respond and develop a better picture of what is happening.”
Mounties swarmed 377 Winnipeg St. last week to arrest a man who was wanted for failing to serve an intermittent jail sentence. Some people living in the area were disappointed to see police leave so quickly.