Step up, keyboard warriors

An increase in vitriol and nasty comments directed towards the homeless on Okanagan Facebook groups has the outgoing head of the Penticton RCMP issuing challenge; step up and help out.

Supt. Ted De Jager said administrators of local Facebook groups have “a social responsibility” to “block those types of comments" that call for violence.

“If it was racially motivated it would be hate speech, but apparently if you are a down and out person on the street, people are allowed to say we should beat the crap out of you and let you die. I don’t know what the difference is, it’s disgusting.”

When the conversation turns to street issues, discussions in Facebook groups up and down the Valley can devolve into calls for vigilante tactics.

“We have our problems. We have crime. Street-level people commit crime and white collar people commit crime,” De Jager said, adding they work to gather evidence to arrest and charge people of all types. 

“How do you even know that’s the person that did it?” he added, referring to the practice of posting pictures of suspected thieves on social media. “I can’t tell you how many times eyewitness testimony was refuted in court.”

De Jager said they encourage people to report anything suspicious to them immediately, but complaining on social media doesn't offer solutions.

“If they had the guts to come up with a meaningful solution, I’m all ears. So come on and join the team — join Citizens on Patrol,” he said.

“But you sit there and type all this nonsense and do all that jazz. If you got the guts come on out, we will engage you in a meaningful solution. But they don’t, they just sit there and type away. It's the same people saying the same things.”

On the other side of the coin, he pointed to Project Penticton as a positive grass-roots organization that was born by social media. The volunteer group has been patrolling parks and public spaces looking for and cleaning up needles and drug paraphernalia. 

“There’s a group of people that said we’ve got a problem we are going to do something about it,” he said.

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