'It's getting way out of hand.'

Teen arrests end town's crime spree

By Justin Noble - Special to Nunatsiaq News

KANGIQSUJUAQ – A spree of thefts that hit practically every store in Kangiqsujuaq two weekends ago has ended with the arrest of two 15-year-olds, who now face charges of breaking and entering and possession of stolen property.

Chips and pop were nabbed from a corner store, a window was smashed at the Northern store, electronics were stolen from the youth centre and at the co-op store vandals attempted to bore into the building through a brick wall.

"It's been getting ridiculous now for the past two years," said Bernie Adams, retail manager at the co-op store, where youths also broke in last January. "It's getting way out of hand."

The teens are awaiting the arrival of the travelling court, which is due in town early next month.

But residents like Adams want more effort to be focused on stemming what has become a growing tide of vandalism and burglaries committed by minors.

"We can not only rely on services like the court and youth protection," said Mary Pilurtuut, the mayor of Kangiqsujuaq. "It's a community issue, everyone needs to do something."

At the co-op store, where locks had been improved after January's break-in (when wannabe thieves used a hacksaw and screwdriver to take apart the doorknob), burglars chose a more indirect entrance this time, Adams said – tunnelling through the store's outer wall.

They bludgeoned their way past a layer of exterior bricks and gouged holes though the foam and wood beneath, but were stopped by a metal plate. It appears that nothing was taken from the store, said police, but the outside was laced with graffiti.

At the Northern store, a window was broken but locks held. Security has been heightened here, too, after break-ins earlier in the year. In the spring a group of kids, the oldest 13, stole cookies and pop from the storage shed, said John Wilkinson, manager of the Northern store.

Wilkinson banned the kids responsible from entering the store. They pleaded with him to be allowed in but respected the ban. On one occasion Wilkinson let a youth in under the supervision of his mother to buy a jacket.

"Even those kids who break in, they're nice and respectful," Wilkinson said, somewhat at a loss as to what leads to the late night youth rampages.

His wife and co-manager, Debbie, recently flew south to seek medical attention because of a heart condition, caused by the stress of the break-ins and the difficulty of maintaining a workforce. In order to be closer to medical facilities, the couple is transferring to a store near James Bay.

The Wilkinsons are not the only store owners fed up with the continual crimes. Frustrated by the most recent burglary and angered by what he sees as a lack of action, Adams threatened co-op directors that he would quit his post.

Adams is particularly enraged by the wanton vandalism. Three weeks ago while he was in Montreal, thieves stole his new Honda all-terrain vehicle, which he valued at $16,000, and pushed it down a steep hill.

The culprits were never caught and the machine now rests beside his home, mangled and unusable, the computer, rims, rail and headlights all in need of repair.

"That's a brand new Honda," said Adams. "I have a wife and seven children."

Pilurtuut agreed more should be done to control the rambunctious youth. She complained of the long delays between the commission of crimes and when court comes to town to mete out punishment, often prolonged further by foul weather and schedule changes.

"It's a problem," said Kativik Regional Police Force Captain Tony Paquet. "The court is scheduled to come as much as they can, but there are 14 communities to look after. They obviously can't be everywhere at the same time."

Town officials are considering alternative approaches to instill good values in kids.

A program begun by the municipality two years ago offers teens the chance to go out on the land with an experienced hunter. The program is open to all teenagers but is particularly aimed at youths with behaviour, drug and alcohol problems, said Pilurtuut.

So far about a dozen youths have participated in the program.

"Breaking and entering is a problem," said Pilurtuut. "We try to deal with it the way we know how."

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