Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP say money was the reason behind a rash of vandalized parking meters in downtown Vernon.
RCMP officers joined forces with Vernon bylaw officers to catch a suspected thief in the act.
“As a result of an extensive coordinated investigation, officers arrested a 34-year-old man as he was breaking into a parking meter on Centennial Drive and 35th Street Friday at approximately 1 a.m.,” said Vernon RCMP Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy.
The coordinated investigation included bylaw officers being praised by RCMP for doing a great job canvassing the businesses to see if surveillance footage of a suspect was available and talking to people in the area.
RCMP volunteers were making patrols in their own vehicles and a police officer was situated near the downtown core in an unmarked vehicle.
Money, said Noseworthy, was the motive.
“We did find some coins on him,” she said. “What I’m told from bylaw officers is that those meters regularly have between $5 and $10 in coins in them. How much he was getting out of this, I’m not certain, but it’s nowhere close to the amount of damage he caused.”
To date, approximately 113 parking meters have been broken into in the Vernon downtown area over the last several weeks. The total cost of the damage is more than $20,000.
Whether the suspect is solely responsible for all of the damaged meters is unlikely, said Noseworthy.
“We obviously can’t definitively tie him to all of these damaged and stolen meters,” she said. “It’s quite possible there’s more than him doing than this.”
Mitchell Ronald Szekely, is facing charges of theft under $5,000, mischief under $5,000, and possession of a coin-operated device-breaking instrument.
He has been remanded in custody pending another scheduled appearance in Vernon Provincial Court today.