Brazen crimes, police response have councillor fuming

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Theft from industrial and commercial properties is “out of control,” said M.D. of Lesser Slave River councillor Brian Rosche at a recent meeting. He cited two cases close to home, where Remote Helicopters’ trucks had their exhaust systems torn out in nighttime raids.

What was really eating Rosche was what he’d heard about the police response. In the second case, he said at the Dec. 12 M.D. council meeting, they didn’t even show up.

“They’re not really interested in catching these guys,” he said.

That is unlikely, but leaving it aside, the fact of a high rate of brazen thievery of late is troubling and frustrating for everyone. The province recognized it earlier this year with an investment into beefing up rural crime enforcement. If it’s having any effect, remarked M.D. Reeve Murray Kerik at the same meeting, “I’d sure like to know where.”

Also at that meeting, councillor Jeff Commins mentioned his place of business has been broken into several times. Theft of large amounts of copper, ATMs, vehicles – all happening lately.

“You are in the middle of a crime wave,” said CAO Allan Winarski. “These people from other areas come, hit and leave.”

“They (the RCMP)’ve got a very difficult job,” said councillor Brad Pearson.

“They should at least show up at a crime scene,” said Rosche.

Asked about the case, Staff Sgt. John Spaans of the Slave Lake RCMP said the investigator is waiting for forensic analysis on the July 28 theft. The investigator on the second, more recent theft was away last week and Spaans wasn’t sure of the status.

“I will have to take the complainant(s) word that a member did not attend,” he said, “but I am unable to say why that would be the case.”

Commenting further on theft trends, Spaans said the theft of copper (It’s copper and other valuable metals that make catalytic converters popular theft targets) is actually down in this area lately. He credits the work of the detachment’s General Investigation Section (GIS) for this. It has largely to do with investigators identifying certain suspects and keeping an eye on them. Of course the RCMP gets zero credit for crimes that don’t happen.

“While copper theft is down,” Spaans continued, “there is still a rise in property crime relating to tools, parts, goods, etc. These are stolen and sold for drugs. These types of items are being stolen from sheds, unlocked vehicles and boxes of trucks. We are working on some public education that should be out in early January to try to prevent some of these occurrences.”

Another thing that would help, according to Rosche, is to make it more difficult for thieves to exchange stolen materials for money. The Rural Municipalities Association recently passed a resolution to request a registry for metals.

“So you can’t just show up and pawn it off for cash without a record of where these metals came from,” he says. “It’s been submitted to government.”

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