Un­nerv­ing

Rash of break and en­ters, ar­sons rat­tles P.E.I. com­mu­ni­ties

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DAY

Mount Stewart res­i­dents are un­nerved by a rash of break and en­ters in this quiet com­mu­nity.

There have been a to­tal of seven homes and busi­nesses bro­ken into since April.

“There is a high level of con­cern in the com­mu­nity, con­sid­er­ing the bulk of our pop­u­la­tion are se­niors... a lot of them live alone,’’ says Max­inne JayDoucette, chair­woman of the Mount Stewart Com­mu­nity Coun­cil.

Res­i­dents voiced their con­cerns and fears at a re­cent com­mu­nity meet­ing. As a re­sult, the pos­si­bil­ity of es­tab­lish­ing a neighour­hood watch is be­ing ex­plored.

“Ev­ery­body cer­tainly came to­gether and that’s a good thing,’’ says Jay-Doucette.

RCMP Sgt. Paul Gagne says break and en­ter is far more than just a prop­erty crime.

The act can rob peo­ple of peace of mind and steal away a sense of safety.

“A break and en­ter is a vi­o­la­tion of your safe zone,’’ he says.

“I don’t know any­body that just brushes that (be­ing vic­tim of a break and en­ter) off.’’

Gagne says the Mount Stewart com­mu­nity has cause to be con­cerned by the spate of crime that has in­cluded two break and en­ters in April, one in May, three in June and another in July.

“Based on what we are see­ing, it is prob­a­bly a cou­ple of groups at work,’’ says the sergeant.

“We have a few leads that we are fol­low­ing up on.’’

One group, he notes, seems bent on mis­chief and van­dal­ism, while another group ap­pears to be fo­cused on steal­ing items.

Elec­tron­ics, money and liquor are among the items re­ported stolen in the re­cent break and en­ter stint in the Mount Stewart area.

Not far from this com­mu­nity, a hand­ful of ar­son in­ci­dents have placed Cherry Hill area res­i­dents on high alert.

Eleanor Birt of Char­lot­te­town dis­cov­ered in early June that her well-main­tained homestead in Cherry Val­ley had been thor­oughly vandalized. Two weeks later, some­one torched the house where Birt was born and grew up along with five sib­lings.

The fully fur­nished, medium sized two-storey farm­house was re­cently re­fur­bished with heir­loom so­fas. It was re­duced to rub­ble.

“It’s a per­sonal loss for sure,’’ says Birt. “It housed a lot of mem­o­ries.’’ Birt’s late fa­ther Harold Cof­fin built the house.

The old farm­house had housed many fam­ily re­unions over the years, in­clud­ing one just four sum­mers ago that at­tracted about 80 peo­ple.

While Birt was dev­as­tated by the van­dal­ism, then again by the ar­son, she feels sorry for the per­son or per­sons that set her home and other build­ings in the area ablaze.

“I’m sorry for our loss but I’m not an­gry be­cause what does that do?’’ She adds,

“It’s so sense­less.’’

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Eleanor Birt and her brother, Garth Cof­fin, stand in front of the razed farm­house in Cherry Hill where the pair grew up along with four other sib­lings. The fire is one of sev­eral in­ci­dents of ar­son in the area be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the RCMP.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

RCMP Sgt. Paul Gagne says po­lice are “bol­ster­ing’’ their ef­forts to ad­dress a string of break and en­ters that have oc­curred in the Mount Stewart area over the past few months.

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