Fleeing police more often?

Are Penticton’s crooks running from police more often lately? A local judge seems to think so.

The sentencing hearing for a Penticton woman who pleaded guilty to charges of flight from police and dangerous driving was derailed Tuesday by the musings of Judge Gregory Koturbash, who suggested to Crown counsel that local criminals have not been respecting the RCMP as much as they used to.

“Is it my imagination or is there what appears to be a prevalence of people attempting to flee from police in this community as of late?” he asked, adding there have been several incidents recently where police vehicles have been damaged by those fleeing officers while behind the wheel.

“It just seems to be that it's just a bit more commonplace than it has been in the past, or am I wrong about that?”

Crown prosecutor Andrew Vandersluys responded by noting there were three “flight from police” incidents on the Penticton docket on Tuesday alone.

Connie Clarke, 26, pleaded guilty Tuesday to five charges related to three incidents from 2018 and 2019.

Vandersluys said on the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2019, the Penticton RCMP spotted Clarke — who was under a driving ban — behind the wheel of an uninsured minivan with multiple passengers downtown.

When officers attempted to pull the van over on Martin Street, the van accelerated off at high speed into oncoming traffic through an intersection.

Police followed the van from a distance to the corner of Fairview and Industrial where two passengers jumped out of the back of the vehicle.

Officers again ordered Clarke to pull the van over, but she instead drove onto the sidewalk and through a red light, nearly hitting a vehicle and one of the passengers that just exited the van. Police then abandoned the pursuit and Clarke was arrested three days later and held in custody.

She also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of driving while prohibited and one count of being unlawfully at large for not showing up at the Oliver prison to serve her intermittent jail sentence for theft of motor vehicle and fraud under $5,000.

Clarke has a lengthy criminal record for property crime and driving offences as well as a previous conviction for flight from police.

The Crown argued for a combined sentence of 164 days in prison for the three offences, which included 120 days for the police chase as well as a period of probation in attempt to get her clean.

At the opening of his submissions, defence lawyer James Pennington asked Judge Koturbash if he was going to take into account the suggested recent increase in drivers fleeing Penticton police.

“If that’s going to be a factor I would prefer not to proceed today so I can have a look at that as well,” he said.

Koturbash responded by granting an adjournment and sending the matter to court schedulers to be continued at a later date.

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