Contractor calls for empathy following theft of his truck

Jim West rifled through the clothes a thief left in his pickup truck.

A renovation contractor with an office on Pemberton Avenue and construction sites all over the place, West’s Ford F-150 is his mobile office.  At the end of the day he usually heads to his home in Edgemont for dinner before going back to work.

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“This time, Netflix intervened,” he explains.

After an episode of Fargo he locked his truck and left his keys on the windowsill before going to sleep.

“This guy came in the middle of the night,” he says, explaining he probably opened the door and snatched the keys.

“I have four boys so locking the house is always a challenge.”

The fairly new pickup was stolen early on Jan. 24. At 11 p.m. that day, West picked up his truck at a Vancouver impound lot.

Some paint was scraped, the interior smelled like a wet ashtray and was littered with junk.

Writing on Facebook shortly afterward, West listed what he found: one soiled blanket, three winter coats, two pairs of filthy sweatpants, shaving cream, deodorant, cigarette packs, used needles and small bags coated with white residue.

“I thought, ‘This sucks,” West recalls. “I have so much and this is this guy’s worldly possessions . . . this is it.”

The theft was an act of desperation, West says.

“He was looking for transportation, shelter and privacy – things we all take for granted.”

As best as he can figure, the thief was working as casual labour for a contractor in the area. Maybe he saw how much stuff and how little security there seemed to be in the neighbourhood, West reasons.

It looks like the thief even wrote in his day planner, West says, explaining he found an entry scrawled under Jan. 24 reading: “Picked up F-150, had a great day.”

Judging from parking tickets, the truck was on a side street south of Pender and just east of International Village Mall.

It’s easy to be angry but what the situation calls for, West says, is empathy.

“The empathy begins a conversation.”

It’s about a 10-kilometre drive from Edgemont to the spot the truck was found. That’s closer than some people think, according to West. “None of us are immune from this,” he says. “This guy gets out of jail and where does he go? What’s he do? He has no clothes, he has no possessions, he has no nothing.”

West is the founder of The Paperbacks, an all-male book club with an atmosphere local writer-musician Grant Lawrence likened to “a beer league hockey locker room after a big win.”

That club has changed a few minds, West says, explaining many club members stopped cursing bike lanes after reading a book about urbanism. Now, West wants to change the “doom discourse” about poverty and addiction. He’s also considering attaching the book club to a charity that works with people like the guy who took his truck.

“I’m not a hippie, I’m just a regular guy,” he says. But this crime, he concludes, was committed by a “sad, lost human being that needs our help.”

“There’s no malicious intent,” West says. “They’re just trying to survive.”

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