Peace Rally Planned for Williams Lake
Williams Lake, B.C. – Fed up with all the violence in Williams Lake, Jess Bennett says it’s time to take back his community.
The truck driver, husband, and father of three is co-organizing a peace rally at Boitanio Park in the heart of the city April 3rd.
He says the apparent gunpoint robbery of a 14 year old boy was what spurred him to action though violence there has concerned him for longer than that.
“Last year my brother, who lives on Western Avenue, there was a drive-by shooting there,” says Bennett. “They heard bullets whizzing past their bedroom window. He was there with his daughter trying to help her get to sleep when it happened.”
Unfortunately, he says the violence hasn’t stopped.
“There’s stabbings, elderly people getting robbed or beat up. It’s just non-stop. The week after the boy was robbed at gunpoint there was a woman, she got robbed at gunpoint.”
Bennett says it’s left the city of 11,000 feeling terrorized by what he says is just a handful of prolific offenders.
“Everybody from all walks of life are fed up. Everybody’s scared and nobody knows what to do.”
He’s hoping the rally will be one small step in finding a solution.
“The goal is getting everyone together and on the same page. It’s going to be a long road but we’ve got to start somewhere.”
As for solutions, he says he’s not sure what to think about council’s recent vote to inject prolific offenders with a GPS tracking device, but says he has another idea.
“I know it’s been done before, where cities have banned prolific offenders from inside city limits. It hasn’t been officially put forward but we want to know why that can’t be done here,” says Bennett.
“If they are a prolific offender and if they do come into the city and they get caught, they go to jail, they’re trespassing.”
That’s not to say he’s advocating locking them up and throwing away the key.
“We want to get these guys help.There’s got to be more stuff for these guys and girls, whoever’s involved with this.”
Cariboo-Prince George Conservative MP Todd Doherty says he’s well aware of what’s going on in Williams Lake.
In fact he says he’s met with Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on the matter and is trying to set up a visit so he can see first hand what’s going on.
In the meantime, Doherty says he’s got a private members bill that deals with prolific offenders that the hopes will help.
“It seeks to make sure that when these prolific offenders are being released back into communities, that it’s mandatory those communities and the victims of crimes that are committed by these criminals, they’re being notified.”
But until something is done, Bennett says he won’t let his wife or kids go downtown at night.
“It’s just not safe. This stuff has even been happening in broad daylight.”