It was a busy weekend in the Valley on June 25 and June 26 after a string of thefts and acts of vandalism plagued the area.
With social media posts ranging from security videos showing people approaching vehicles to check if they are open, a stolen vehicle, shed break ins, and large gatherings of people near the Val Est Mall.
But while the thefts are often considered crimes of opportunity, said GSPS, one city councillor thinks something else is going on behind the scenes, something more organized and involving both young people and “pit parties.”
Greater Sudbury Police confirm that there were a number of calls for service, relating to mischief, vehicle theft and property theft occurring in Val Caron and the surrounding area this weekend, said GSPS spokesperson Sarah Kaelas, and that in Sudbury, vehicle theft often involves “amateur” thieves who take advantage of an opportunity by grabbing the first vehicle they can find that’s been left unsecured.
“During the summer months, there is always a slight increase in these types of crimes given the nicer weather and increased pedestrian traffic in residential neighbourhoods,” Kaelas told Sudbury.com. “Also, with the warmer weather and school concluding for the summer, there will be increased visibility of youths outside and in the community.”
This warmer weather and end of school also means that more parties may be happening, particularly in wooded and unseen areas, known as bush or pit parties. Kaelas said that parties, when discovered or reported to police, begin with a disbursement of youth from the area, and when applicable, escalate to fines or notices.
“Depending on the circumstances surrounding the gathering, police may issue provincial offence notices for underage drinking, open liquor and/or fines for trespassing and/or littering,”said Kaelas. “We encourage parents and guardians to have meaningful conversations with their children on personal safety and making responsible decisions. Ensure your teen tells you where they are, who they’re with, where they’re going and when they are expected to return home.”
But one city councillor, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan believes that more should be done, and detailed in a Facebook post what he thought would be the best course of action.
In addition to recommending note-taking and photographing vehicles when safe, Kirwan states that there has been a pit party “most nights for the past couple of weeks.”
Kirwan said a group of approximately 20-30 teenagers are being dropped off by the last bus from Sudbury to the Valley and head to the pit party. He does not detail the source of this information. What he does note is that “each night between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. vehicles are broken into, graffiti is put on business walls, windows are smashed and thefts are occurring through the Valley.”
Kirwan said that he had heard reports of “teens running from property to property trying to break into sheds and vehicles: and said there is often a pick up truck following them to secure the items they steal. “The trucks may be picking up kids from the pit party to do the work since they are young offenders.”
Although it may seem odd, Kirwan also claims that “when the kids vandalize a business, they usually leave behind a painted rock as a calling card,” though he doesn’t state how he knows this to be true.
In his original post, Kirwan stated he would be asking Brendan Adair, the city’s director of transit services, about the possibility of security videos to determine if the young people are coming to the Valley by bus at night, and having drivers demand identification from young people wishing take the late bus to the Valley, and “if they can’t prove they are from the Valley, they they should not be allowed on the bus.”
In the updated post, Kirwan offers the response from transit services, as well as more information about the rocks. He said that one business let him know that a painted rock appeared near her entrance on the day of the vandalism and that “this may be some sort of trend or game that the kids may be playing.”
As to the security video, it can only be shared as part of an ongoing police investigation (due to privacy concerns) and that “the Director of Transit Services indicates that there is no authority to ask for any proof of address or identification from users of public transit, so there is no way of restricting non-residents of Valley East from using the buses to get out to the pit parties,” writes Kirwan.
In an additional comment, Kirwan adds, “If my constituents think that what I am doing to protect their rights is wrong, then they can vote in someone else who will be more willing to pat the kids on the head and ask them to be better in the future,” he wrote. “I am not going to put up with this and will do what I can to stop it.”
Kaelas offered tips for preventing vehicle theft, securing valuables and reporting to police.
Keeping valuables locked up tight, and out of sight, will help, as well as removing ownership or insurance papers from inside the vehicle when it is unattended. Make sure you have your license plate and vehicle insurance number (VIN) written down.
She also adds that It is common when investigating these types of crimes for police officers to be told later by a resident that they saw someone at a neighbouring property.
“This situation is potentially a crime in progress and should be called into police immediately,” said Kaelas. “Providing the best description of the suspicious person (clothing, direction of travel) could lead to an apprehension.”
If you see anyone in your neighbourhood who is engaging in suspicious or criminal activity, she said, do not hesitate to call the Greater Sudbury Police Service 705-675-9171.
In the case of an emergency, including a crime in progress, call 911.
To report a crime after the fact, you can file a report using the online reporting system. “We remind community members that social media is not a reporting tool,” said Kaelas, and added
“Again, as school concludes for the summer, we remind community members that there will be an increase in youth activity in the community.”
Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with Sudbury.com. She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.