Homeowners forced to evacuate a condemned development on the Sunshine Coast now have a whole new concern to deal with: thieves and intruders, suspected of squatting inside the empty homes.
The occupants of all 14 homes at the Concordia Seawatch development in Sechelt were forced to leave in February due to persistent and dangerous sinkholes.
The entire subdivision has been barricaded ever since, with the homeowners unable to return or enter their homes. But now, they say, it’s obvious others have been inside.
“People have gone to the bathrooms, they’ve broken doors, they’ve broken the pantry doors,” Chris Moradian said Wednesday.
“Shampoo sprayed all over the place; drink cups all over the place. It seems like they’re living there.”
Video footage provided to Global News, recorded on the phones of homeowners who accessed their properties on Wednesday, detail more disturbing discoveries: rocks thrown through windows, chairs and furniture damaged and thrown out of place, and toilets and sinks that had clearly been recently used.
Sunshine Coast RCMP confirmed they were called to the subdivision over the weekend, after an alarm was triggered at one of the properties on Sunday night.
WATCH: (Feb. 15) Residents of controversial Sechelt neighbourhood ordered out of homes
Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam says five properties have been identified as houses that have been targeted by intruders.
Although officers are technically not allowed to enter the grounds due to the instability of the area, Hallam says officers did enter the subdivision on Sunday, as they thought they had a good chance of catching whoever triggered the alarm.
No suspects were ultimately caught, but several people leaving the subdivision as officers arrived were captured on surveillance footage.
RCMP say they are now analyzing that footage, in an effort to locate potential suspects.
In the meantime, the public is being reminded that, although officers aren’t able to be on site in person, the area is still being carefully monitored by surveillance footage and drones.
Hallam says the security concerns of homeowners at the Seawatch development — which have been substantiated over the past month and a half by tangible evidence — are of top priority for RCMP members tasked with patrolling the area.
WATCH: (Feb. 10) Minors ordered out of homes in Sechelt sinkhole development
Inquiries to the Public Safety Solicitor General about the recent security concerns surrounding the subdivision were forwarded to Emergency Management BC, which referred Global News to the District of Sechelt for comment on the issue.
The District of Sechelt declined to comment, citing ongoing legal action, other than to say the subdivision is still under an evacuation order and that all entry onto the grounds is prohibited.
All but one of the homeowners have filed civil claims naming multiple defendants, including the District of Sechelt, the province, and the developer.
The security concerns only serve to exacerbate the already exhaustive and ongoing legal battle that many homeowners say is further draining them of their life savings. Many of them are past retirement, and in their senior years.
“It’s been horrific over the last seven months,” Donna Goy said. “My husband is 65 and he’s going back to work after being retired. All our dreams are being put on hold. And they’re stalling, they’re not giving us any information. There’s no plan.
“Where else is there an emergency evacuation in Canada, or anywhere in the world, that they don’t give you information about what they’re doing to alleviate the emergency?”
WATCH: (Feb. 8) Sechelt residents on evacuation alert due to sinkholes
RCMP is reminding the public that, in light of the recent breaches at the subdivision, access to the Seawatch grounds is still strictly prohibited, adding that members will be increasing their already regular patrols of the surrounding area.
Homeowners say they’re pleased with the response and the attention they’ve received from RCMP since they were evacuated, but they want to see the District of Sechelt take more accountability for the ongoing saga that’s now left many residents in dire financial straits.
“There are people who have been done wrong, and people need to take the appropriate steps to make things right,” Moradian said. “They don’t want to deal with it, so they put a fence around it. It’s a cop-out.”
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