Parking meters continue to be targeted in downtown Vernon, police said. Over the past week, RCMP learned of 39 machines targeted by vandals. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)

Vernon police nab two after string of parking meter thefts

39 parking meters were targeted in the downtown core last week

Two suspected parking meter vandals were nabbed by Vernon police on March 10 after 39 parking meters were vandalized in the downtown core last week.

On Monday, March 2, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP learned of 21 parking meters targeted over the weekend. Police were advised of another 18 meters hit on Friday, March 6.

“This is a crime that can occur relatively quickly as the thief can be in and out of a meter in a matter of minutes,” Vernon North Okanagan RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Tania Finn said.

But on Tuesday, police were able to make two arrests based on information from callers.

A concerned resident called police to report a suspicious man on March 10 around 9:20 p.m. Police responded, with the resident’s description to go on, but they were unable to locate the man.

Five minutes later, a second caller said three men were breaking into parking meters in another area of downtown.

Police responded immediately and made two arrests, the third suspect fled on foot.

However, the description offered by the first caller didn’t match any of the three suspects police found at the second location.

“Unfortunately, it appears there is more than on thief targeting the meters here in Vernon,” Cpl. Finn said in a release prior to the arrests.

Two men, 28 and 35, are in police custody after they were found with break-in instruments and a small number of quarters, loonies and toonies.

Both men are known to police and have a history of similar types of theft in the Vernon area, police said.

“Both of these incidents came to the attention of the police because concerned citizens witnessed suspicious activity and took the time to call us,” Cpl. Finn said Wednesday.

“We appreciate the public’s assistance in identifying these crimes as they occur,” she said. “Without these calls from the public, police would not have been in a position to make an immediate arrest.”

The City of Vernon is assessing the damage to the broken meters and costs for repairs are unknown at this time.

Motorists parking at a broken meter are not required to pay at that location, however, they must still abide by the maximum allowable time limit, the city’s communications and grant manager Christy Poirier said in an email.

“For example, if they park in a two-hour zone, they must vacate that location within two hours,” she wrote. “Staff are still monitoring all areas and will be ticketing vehicles that exceed the maximum allowable time limit.”

Two men were arrested after vandalizing parking meters downtown in February.

A 39-year-old man is facing charges of mischief and theft after officers arrested him within minutes of a concerned citizen’s call on Feb. 12. A witness stayed on the line with dispatch and was able to provide updates on the man’s location leading to a successful arrest.

Upon his arrest, police found the man has done this before and was in violation of a previous release order’s conditions banning him from being within one metre of a parking meter.

A second man, 35, was arrested Feb. 13 and found in possession of a homemade device used to retrieve coins from parking metres.

To report suspicious activity, contact the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP non-emergency line of 250-545-7171. Or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or leaving a tip online at nokscrimestoppers.com. If information provided leads to an arrest, you could be eligible for a cash reward.

READ MORE: UPDATE: City of Vernon investigates cost of repairs for 39 vandalized parking meters

READ MORE: Vernon resident petitions for free parking


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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