Chet Greason email@example.com
Last September, a town hall meeting at the Mitchell Arena brought in over 500 residents to discuss the rash of thefts that had been plaguing the West Perth community.
A big topic on everyone’s mind that night was citizen’s arrest. A rumour had been circulating that a local homeowner had locked a thief in his garage until police arrived, and had been charged with forcible confinement. That rumour turned out to be false.
“That doesn’t make sense,” responded Perth OPP staff Sgt. Joel Skelding when asked about the rumour, adding that, were it true, the incident would constitute a form of citizen’s arrest, something that’s perfectly legal. He further explained citizens are under the same requirements and rules as police, and that there’s is a fine line between apprehension and assault.
“The response has to be appropriate to the threat,” he clarified. “The more threat posed to you, the further you go. Any excess, and you’ll be responsible for it.”
Fast forward five months and, it would seem, Mitchell was listening. An area man not only called in suspicious behaviour resulting in the arrest of three car thieves, but apprehended one of the crooks himself in an act of citizen’s arrest that OPP spokesperson Const. Kees Wijnands is calling “A prime example of citizens and police working together.”
The Mitchell resident called the OPP on Sunday, Feb. 2 around 6:30 p.m. and reported two men and one woman acting suspiciously around a parked vehicle.
After the caller supplied the police with the vehicle’s license number, a quick check revealed that the Rav 4 had been stolen from the Waterloo area.
As officers arrived on the scene, they approached the three individuals. Following confirmation from the caller that they were, in fact, the three that had been hanging around the stolen car, the officers informed them they were under arrest, at which point all three attempted to flee.
One of the men attempted to get away in the stolen vehicle, but only succeeded in getting stuck in a snow bank. Abandoning the car, he tried to escape on foot but was apprehended on Wellington Street.
The second male was caught shortly after near the Mitchell Car Wash.
That left the female, who ran towards the LCBO. With the OPP busy chasing the two men, the initial caller took the initiative to chase after her, eventually finding her hiding near a dumpster in the liquor store parking lot.
According to Wijnands, the Mitchell man informed the woman she was “under arrest” and that she “was not leaving.”
“He held onto her until the police arrived within a few minutes.”
All three suspects, one of which hails from North Perth, the other two from Kitchener-Waterloo, have been charged with possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and failure to comply with a probation order. In addition, one of the men has been charged with possession of break-in instruments, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, resisting a peace officer, and flight while pursued by peace officers.
The female was also charged with resisting a peace officer and possession of cannabis under 30 grams. All three appeared in court on Feb. 3 and remain in custody.
Wijnands has high praise for the intrepid Mitchell resident who made the arrest.
“He did everything right. He immediately handed her over to the police, which is exactly what citizen’s arrest is for,” he said.
Wijnands further explained most people’s fears of being charged with forcible confinement or assault as a result of citizen’s arrest are unfounded; that citizen’s arrest, in its essence, is meant to simply detain criminals until police can arrive. He cites a citizen ensuring a drunk driver remains at the scene of an accident as another good example of a citizen’s arrest done right.
“We’ve been getting a lot more calls since the meeting (in September),” Wijnands added. “This is exactly what we’re asking the public to do.
“With the community’s help, we can solve a lot of stuff. It’s amazing when we all work together.”