Port Alberni RCMP have arrested and charged a man they suspect is responsible for a number of commercial break-and-enters in the city in the past few weeks.
On Friday, Aug. 30 police were responding to an alarm call at 1:30 a.m. at a place on Argyle Street when they saw the suspect in the vicinity. A police dog team based in Port Alberni was dispatched and captured the suspect.
James Robert Jones was arrested in relation to a previous break-and-enter and brought to the RCMP detachment. He had also been charged on Aug. 29 with four Criminal Code charges for forgery, uttering a forged document, fraud and theft.
A second person who showed up at the RCMP detachment was arrested for obstructing a police officer but was released and has not been charged with anything.
“We have a dog handler here in Port Alberni and he responded to the call of the B&E,” RCMP Operations Support NCO Sgt. Peter Dionne said.
Jones has since been charged with another 12 counts in relation to “ongoing property crime investigations,” with more charges expected, Dionne said.
“It was a ton of work.”
Port Alberni RCMP detachment’s Crime Reduction Unit and Forensic Identification Section coordinated with numerous other investigators over the Labour Day weekend to gather enough evidence for the 12 counts.
“The tasks involved to bring these investigations together to meet the criminal standard of proof for court required hundreds of hours of work,” Dionne said. “The long hours the officers put in shows the dedication they have to Port Alberni and its residents.”
Jones appeared in court on Sept. 4 following a bail hearing, and will be remanded in custody until his next court appearancing on Oct. 2. He has so far been charged with 17 counts of break and enter and eight counts of possession of stolen property under $5,000.
Dionne said RCMP investigators are still looking into unsolved property crime investigations and trying to identify suspects through video, witness accounts or physical evidence.
A number of businesses in the Argyle Street, Third Avenue and Harbour Quay corridors were broken into, and others in the 10th Avenue and Roger Street business area, including some restaurants.
Carmen Zhang at Beijing Grand Restaurant on Third Avenue said she left work at 1 a.m. after a busy Thursday night shift. When she returned to the restaurant nine hours later she discovered her cash box was stolen, a Lucky Cat ornament that had 20 years’ worth of tips in it was gone, and whoever broke in had stolen all their frozen bacon and left the freezer doors wide open.
It was the first time the restaurant had ever been burgled, and it left Zhang shaken.
Healthy Habits, a few blocks away, was broken into a few days later. The thief or thieves stole cash and left refrigerator doors open as well, an employee said.
In an earlier report, Dionne declined to name all the businesses that had been affected because he had not personally spoken to the owners and managers.
Anyone with information related to property offences (break and enter, theft, sale of stolen property) is asked to please contact Port Alberni Detachment at 250-723-2424. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can contact Alberni Valley Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at www.solvecrime.ca, by SMS: Text: BCTIP and your message to CRIMES (274637).