By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Rural areas in southern Alberta, media reports have pointed out as of late, are getting a significant amount of thefts from vehicles, thefts of vehicles and trailers, as well as property thefts.
Last week, Staff Sgt. Glenn Henry from the RCMP Coaldale and rural detachments, said he met with the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) and detachments from Fort Macleod, Taber, and Raymond to talk about shared borders and recognizing crime has no borders — criminals don’t care where they go.
“As far as policing jurisdictions, we’re all going to have to work together and identify people doing these thefts,” he said.
Henry paid a visit to Lethbridge County council last week to talk about recent activities and to solicit input from the county of what council thinks policing priorities should be for policing the south part of the river.
“Our annual performance plan runs Apr. 1 to Mar. 1. We’re just finishing off our final quarter now. As a reminder, the priorities we are doing are to build and maintain positive police community relations. We’re trying to get out and do some interaction with the public, whether it’s barbecues or Remembrance Day services — whatever it is to have the RCMP out and visible,” he noted.
Henry noted the second priority is to try to reduce crimes through police visibility. “We’re doing that through increased traffic enforcement and also through street checks. The third priority is a crime reduction strategy to try to reduce the number of thefts from vehicles,” he added. He noted the recent apprehension of two individuals from the county who were responsible for thefts.
“It seems to be a bit of a trend, the criminals are in the rural areas and they bring the stolen equipment and stuff into the City of Lethbridge, where we’re recovering a lot of stolen vehicles,” Henry said, adding recently there was a recovery of two trucks and an ATV at a Lethbridge hotel stolen from Taber. “It’s very seamless with our borders.”
One of the council members mentioned a neighbour who told him about quite a rash of fuel thefts and batteries in the county from at least seven places recently.
“I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times or just what it is,” the council member said.
Henry said part of meeting with other police services is to try and identify the people involved. “We do think it’s an organized group that’s doing it,” he added. The objective is to try to apprehend the individuals responsible and to make sure southern Albertans feel safe.
According to Henry, there was a recent theft of a cistern in Coaldale.
“We’re thinking that cistern is being used to house stolen fuel because we’re getting a lot of fuel thefts and where do they house the fuel?”
“It’s all kind of tied in together. There’s one big plan we’re trying to unravel the best we can,” he added.
Residents need to lock up quonsets, sheds, property and can no longer leave keys in vehicles anymore. “The way we used to do things maybe isn’t our reality today.”
“That’s just an unfortunate reality of the sign of the times,” he said.
Traditionally, police services are aware property theft is a very low solve rate and it’s very difficult to locate stolen property, according to the staff sergeant.
“If someone punches you, you know who they are or you have a good description of them and it’s very easy for us to come back and charge those people. When you have your truck stolen sometime during the night and you call us at 8 a.m. that truck could be in Edmonton by the time we get the call,” Henry said.
Police services also know there’s a lot of thefts going on that are well-planned out and individuals are out in the rural areas scouting and looking for property to steal and come back and do it. “Reporting a suspicious activity is very critical,” he said.
Recently, Henry noted, the RCMP received a report of a vehicle stopped by a county community peace officer in front of Sunnyside School. “Which identified two people with some drugs in the vehicle and the vehicle may or may not be stolen. But, for a change identified somebody from Fort Macleod,” he said.
“The question I asked my guys was what’s the lawful purpose of people from Fort Macleod at 10 a.m. in front of Sunnyside School? These are people that are 19 years old, that range, and my opinion is they’re up to no good. At least we have some good intelligence on who’s who and now we’re going to work with that. It’s amazing how transient people can be.”
One of the county councillors asked Henry what constitutes suspicious activity? Henry said a good analogy is rural residents know their area and know what is right or wrong.
“If we get a bomb threat in a school, we actually grab one of the staff members and say let’s go for a walk because this is their school and they know what’s wrong or what’s right or different and whose lunch box is whose-type of thing. That’s really a judgment call you guys have to make. You should know your neighbours fairly well. You know what vehicle should be there and what vehicle shouldn’t be there. You should know your neighbour may be gone for a weekend or for a week and if someone is in their yard that’s suspicious and call us,” Henry said.
What police services are finding very commonly now, Henry said, is the dumping of vehicles in rural areas and stolen property. An example he used was a resident said there was a trailer sitting out in a rural area that doesn’t belong and the trailer was dumped.
“We were looking for that trailer and we were glad to get it because the bad guys dumped it with the idea of probably coming back to recover it,” he said.
He added if something doesn’t make sense or is out of the ordinary or feels suspicious — call the police at their regular complaint line, not 9-1-1, unless it’s an emergency.
On a final note, Henry said, cameras are a good idea in yards or on a farm and are good for possible identification purposes and is a good place to start.
“And can help the RCMP help you,” Henry said.