Chilliwack city and tourism officials are meeting Friday with police and local fishing groups to see what can be done to counter negative publicity after a story about U.S. anglers’ car tires being slashed went viral.
Chilliwack RCMP are not buying the theory that U.S. fishermen were targeted in the Thanksgiving weekend tire slashings, saying it could simply be the fact that most of the nine vehicles involved in the incidents reported near the Keith Wilson Bridge belonged to Americans. One of the cars had B.C. plates – and its tires were also slashed.
“These (tire slashings) are not necessarily targeted, and may be a crime of opportunity,” RCMP Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth said.
There were online reports that up to 30 cars parked along the Vedder River had their tires slashed, but Hollingsworth said only nine were officially reported to police.
“Regardless of who was targeted,” said Brian Coombes, Tourism Chilliwack’s executive director, the tire slashing incidents are “not being taken lightly” and the Friday meeting was organized to come up with a plan to catch the culprits and to repair “any potential damage done to our sport tourism industry.”
The meeting will focus on how to reach out to anglers who have said they won’t come back to Chilliwack because of the tire slashings, he said.
“We want to see what we can do to reach out and invite them back to our community,” he said.
“The last thing we want is a black eye with regard to our hospitality,” Mayor Sharon Gaetz agreed.
Sport fishermen, especially those from the U.S. who pay much higher fees for fishing licences, are a major source of tourism revenue in Chilliwack, and the spin-off benefits to the local economy in terms of accommodation and fishing supplies are also huge.
Fraser Valley Salmon Society president Frank Kwak said the society is looking at offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is behind the tire slashing.
But he said the legal details of such a reward is another item that needs to be ironed out at the Friday meeting, which will include RCMP officials and other fishing-related businesses.
Kwak said vandalism and theft from fishermen’s vehicles parked along area rivers happens on a regular basis, and a long-term solution is needed.
Coombes said posting police officers all along the river is unrealistic, so encouraging fishermen themselves to be more vigilant and to report suspicious activity may be the key.
There is a toll-free “observe, record, report” line for information about suspected illegal activities at 1-800-465-4336.
“When I observe something illegal on the river, wherever I am, I phone the ORR line,” Kwak said.
While police investigators say U.S. anglers may not have been targeted, one Seattle-based fishermen told The Progress that his car was the only one with U.S. plates damaged in a parking area on the upper Vedder River near the fish hatchery.
Brad Hole said it appeared the slashing of both tires on the driver’s side was designed to cripple his vehicle and maximize repair costs because a tow truck would need to be called.
A Canadian Tire employee in Chilliwack said 12 U.S. visitors with slashed tires came in for repairs “on Saturday alone” during the Thanksgiving weekend.
A California angler said it cost him $1,000 for repairs after his tires were slashed near the Keith Wilson Bridge.