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Homeless return stolen e-bike to city council candidate

It's like an episode of a mild-mannered TV crime show.

Kelowna city council candidate Ron Cannan's e-bike is swiped Wednesday night while he's out campaigning at the Uptown Rutland Business Association networking and social mixer at The Bridge Youth & Family Services.

Former cop and fellow city council candidate Chris Williams is there and offers to help get the bike back via a late night tour of downtown back alleys, dark parks and homeless encampments.

"You've got a limited amount of time once a bike is stolen before the serial number is filed off and repainted or disassembled for parts and you never see it again," said Williams, who retired in 2019 after 24 years with the RCMP.

"I spent two-and-a-half hours touring around asking the homeless population for help and then just after midnight I got the call that the bike had been recovered and I could pick it up at the homeless camp along the Okanagan Rail Trail (in the downtown north end adjacent to Baillie Avenue)."

</who>Kelowna city council candidate Ron Cannan, left, got his stolen e-bike back with help from former cop and fellow city council candidate Chris Williams.

Back to the details of the sleuthing in a moment.

But first, Cannan's reaction.

"It's truly a miracle to get it back," said Cannan, who served as a city councillor from 1996-2005 and as Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative MP 2006-15.

"It's an answer to my prayers. Chris is an angel. He went way above and beyond to help me and I appreciate it so much."

Cannan filed a stolen bike report, but he has a daughter and a son-in-law who are RCMP and he knows stolen bikes, especially sought-after, $3,700 e-bikes like his, are rarely ever recovered.

As mentioned, this story starts at reception at The Bridge on Enterprise Way where Cannan locked his metallic-blue bike to a fence.

When he came out the fence was cut and the expensive e-bike gone.

In its place is a beleaguered old bike.

Looks like the thief simply exchanged his or her ragged ride for a sweet new one.

Williams springs to action and drives to four places he suspects where the bike -- or someone who knows about the whereabouts of the bike -- might be.

Those four 'hotspots' are the homeless encampment along the Okanagan Rail Trail in the downtown north end, alleys behind Leon Avenue downtown, unlit parts of City Park and Lion's Park in Rutland.

"I just asked the homeless population and the street people if they knew anything," said Williams.

"I told them a city council candidate who rode his bike everywhere had his bike stolen and would really like it back. I mentioned that the homeless population doesn't need any more bad publicity and it would be a great gesture for whoever stole the bike to return it."

Now, here comes the disclaimer.

While this approach worked for Williams, he urges you not to try it yourself.

"Definitely, I wouldn't encourage anyone else to approach the homeless and negotiate," he said.

"And certainly don't wander into any of these places at night. Even I felt the tension. These are desperate people who are hurting. But, I know how to talk to them after years of working covert operations, special enforcement teams and as a canine handler. I know how to humanize people. These people can be worked with and progress can be made."

Williams gave his cell phone number to all he spoke to and shortly after midnight got a call that he could pick up Cannan's bike at the Okanagan Rail Trail encampment.

"I was told the bike was located near the Mission Creek Greenway at Benvoulin and Springfield (roads) and brought to the camp," he said.

"They didn't want to reveal anymore and I didn't push."

</who>Ron Cannan, left, and Chris Williams are two of 32 candidates vying for eight city council seats in the Oct. 15 Kelowna election.

Williams returned the bike to Cannan at yesterday's Drive-Thru Breakfast benefitting the United Way put on by Coun. Maxine DeHart, who is running for reelection.

There were several RCMP there, including Superintendent Kara Triance, who took a photo of Williams as he reunited Cannan with his bike.

The only thing missing from the bike was the saddle bags containing Cannan's jacket and campaign papers.

Cannan had a sense of humour about it.

"Some homeless person out there is looking good in my jacket and can certainly get a better understanding of where I stand on everything by reading the campaign materials," he said with a laugh.

But he then turned earnest.

"Crime is a serious issue in our community," said Cannan.

"It's so frequent and a real challenge for police. Something has to be done."

Now, this is where Williams does so campaigning.

"To me, this is a good news story and shows that prolific offenders can be reasoned with," he said.

"The RCMP can be more effective in this area. If I get on city council the big thing for me will be listening. I've already been listening to the homeless and they want clean water and a source of power at their camps. If some of their needs are met, the crime rate may go down. There's room for us to form collaborations.

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