Senior resident of downtown building assaulted during break-in

Senior assaulted in break-in

This month Kelowna’s Carmel Court condo building on Bertram Street has been subject to multiple burglaries, as well as the assault of a 72-year-old resident who caught a man breaking into the building.

According to building manager Jan Steffen, crime has increased considerably over the last couple of months, leaving everyone feeling uneasy.

“Since the fifth of January, we’ve had a rash of break and enters and stolen items,” he says.

Two men were caught on camera breaking into the building’s emergency lock box on Jan. 5, giving them access to the master key and entrance fob.

“Basically gave them access to every door, every suite and they ended up taking a couple bikes right out through the lobby [at] three in the morning,” says Steffen.

Because no alarms were sounded, no one was aware that the men had gained access to the building and the following night on Jan. 6, they returned for more bikes.

Residents then noticed their bikes had gone missing, which prompted Steffen to look through security footage. After realizing the suspects had access to the entire building, he was forced to spend thousands of dollars to re-key Carmel Court.

This isn’t the first time the building has had to invest in new security measures.

“Last year, we bricked-in our whole parkade with breeze block because we just had steel bars, but they were cutting through the steel bars and we had electric bikes get stolen and scooters. We spent $30,000 on that,” said Steffen, adding that they’ve also spent thousands on high-definition security cameras.

As the days went on, the thieves returned to learn that the master key and fob no longer worked. After a few failed attempts they stopped trying to enter Carmel Court.

But at about 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 16, a man returned to the building and tried entering through the front door, but was unsuccessful. Instead, he broke into a back door using a shovel, which sounded the building’s alarm.

“My wife and I heard it so we jumped up and I came downstairs. I went out the south end of the building, around to the overhead door and came into our underground parking, through to the office and I checked the cameras and that’s when I realized there was still someone in the underground parking,” explains the resident, whose name we won’t be sharing for privacy reasons.

The resident left the office and went outside where he found the suspect’s bags sitting near a vehicle.

“I came along the north end of the building and peeked in the breeze block and here he was face-to-face with me inside the parkade. He came out and I had already dialled 9-1-1 and I let him go down the alley,” said the resident.

The suspect headed towards Doyle Avenue and the resident followed him while on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator.

“He was probably 200-300 feet ahead of me at least, and I just told them where exactly he was headed…and then all of a sudden he turned around and he hollered, ‘hey old man, are you following me?’ and then he started running at me. Thats when he hit me, knocked me down, turned around and kicked me, and then grabbed my phone and threw it against the cement wall,” the resident said.

RCMP officers arrived on scene just seconds later and the resident brought the officers to the building’s office so they could watch the security footage.

“They looked at it and they recognized him immediately and said, ‘we just dealt with him half an hour ago’ and so within five-to-10 minutes they had arrested him,” he says.

Kelowna RCMP tells Castanet that they responded to a report of a break and enter and officers arrested a 36-year-old Kelowna man a short time later.

"A man attempted to intervene and was allegedly assaulted by the suspect. The victim suffered minor injuries, and the suspect fled the area," says Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy of the Kelowna RCMP.

After the suspect was apprehended, he was released on conditions for a future court date. RCMP did not share any further details.

“The policeman told me then that he would be held until Monday morning when he’d go in front of a judge and he probably would be let out. He was let out on Monday.”

Steffen tells Castanet the same man was caught on surveillance footage stealing packages from the other apartment he manages, which is just down the street from Carmel Court.

“The same day he got out, he broke into the other building,” says Steffen. “These guys are just repeat offenders. They keep getting slapped on the wrist and there’s no consequences for them.”

The resident of Carmel Court who was assaulted over the weekend says he’s seen the man who attacked him casually walk by the complex.

“He walked by and he glared at me. He was on the same side of the street as me and I just acted like I didn’t know who he was,” he says.

The resident is still recovering from his injuries, but he says he’s doing a lot better.

“I’m not as sore as I was. The first day or so I was pretty sore, I mean I’m not young anymore,” he laughs. “My hands are cut, my knee is scraped and my elbow is scraped but I’m doing good.”

The resident hopes by sharing his story, it will shine a light on the negative realities of downtown.

“The homeless shelter - we’re not helping the people. We need some place permanent for those types of people and it should not be in a residential area because obviously people aren’t feeling safe,” he says.

Steffen, the building manager says he’s angry and he’s spoken with neighbouring building managers who are all experiencing the same things.

“We’ve noticed an uptick in the downtown area since they moved the shelter just north on Bertram here.”

Kelowna’s Gospel Mission opened a temporary winter shelter in December at the former location of the Daily Courier at 550 Doyle Avenue. The facility houses 40 homeless people and provides on-site showers, laundry services and meals. The shelter will be operating until March 31, 2021.

“My job is to take care of the building and the property, and I’m just trying to stay ahead of these guys, but most of the time I’m behind them,” says Steffen. “I’m trying to patch up broken doors and messed up locks, I’m trying to just keep them out because they keep probing to get access into the building and they finally did. I’m just angry that now it’s turned to assault. This should not be happening.”

Steffen says he’s talked to multiple police officers who are also expressing frustrations.

“I’ve talked to three different police officers now and they’re all saying the same thing - it gets to the courts and it gets thrown out...they need to get tougher on the smaller crimes,” he says.

“The last guy that broke-in laid under the camera in a flood light, full face, looked up at the camera, almost smiled and eventually broke in…he didn’t care if he was arrested, he didn’t care if he was identified.”

These incidents have left residents feeling frustrated and they hope city officials and the court system will make changes to improve the safety of downtown neighbourhoods.

“We’re law abiding, tax-paying citizens that pay taxes for the right to live here and we’re subsidizing all this crime,” says Steffen.

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