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Break-ins rattle Kugluktuk

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Coppermine (Dec 13/04) - A number of adults in Kugluktuk were aware youths stole junk food and other items from the Co-op during a crime spree but did nothing about it, say police.

"The volume of people who had knowledge of these offences and did not contact police is of particular concern to us," said Const. Chris Hutchings.

Hundreds of dollars of damage was done to the Co-op warehouse in Kugluktuk during three break-ins police say are related. The break-ins occurred on Nov. 11, Nov. 16 and Nov. 18.

The most severe break-in happened Nov. 18 when an entire warehouse wall was torn down and the warehouse was looted mostly of junk food and pop.

More expensive, re-sellable items including fuel were left untouched say police.

A number of youth and one adult have been charged in connection to the Co-op break-ins.

Several more people have yet to be charged as the investigation continues, said Hutchings.

The Co-op wasn't the only spot hit recently.

The Athletics Society at the Kugluktuk high school lost hundreds of dollars after unknown persons tore down a bathroom wall to reach a cash box inside Kugluktuk High School last month. Hamlet spokesperson Alex (Sandy) Buchan said Kugluktuk has its problems, but it is still a vital, wonderful community.

"It's pretty tough when something like this happens," said Buchan. "We're pinning hopes on the establishment of the correctional healing centre here for offenders."

Buchan said Kugluktuk gets a bad rap for having a high crime rate, but it tends to be the same offenders committing the crimes over and over.

"It is generally well known who has done it," said Buchan. "These individuals are going through a revolving door of jail."

Buchan said council is outraged at the crimes, but is not going to get up on a soapbox.

"Our council is not preachy. We aren't going to tell people how to live their lives. I don't believe the council thinks that would solve anything. People have to decide to live a good life themselves."

Some people blamed an absence of bylaw officers in the community for the break-ins.

To counter that, the hamlet has since hired a community constable that works closely with police.

There was also talk that people broke in and stole all that "food" because they were starving.

Hutchings dismissed that.

"Starvation doesn't explain the malicious damage to the Co-op," said Hutchings.

"Starvation never once came up in the interviews we did," he said. "Their reasons were boredom."

Buchan said Kugluktuk offers a "full range of recreational and wellness activities."

But no one can force a person to take advantage of those activities to stay out of trouble.

"It has to be a personal choice," Buchan said.

Hutchings said the crimes will continue to plague the community until "(the community stands up and says) this is no longer acceptable. People have to take a more active role."