Wave of theft from vehicles sweeps St. Albert neighbourhoods
RCMP hit the streets checking for cracked windows and unlocked doors
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 06:00 am
Residents of the North Ridge and Deer Ridge communities in St. Albert may have noticed a decoration added to their vehicles over the past week, a strip of paper that might initially look like a parking ticket.
Due to several thefts from vehicles in those neighbourhoods, RCMP officers are thinking like thieves and checking streets and driveways for unsecured vehicles. Theft is largely a crime of opportunity, they say.
“Locking your vehicle is not going to ensure 100 per cent that it’s not going to get broken into, but if you don’t have things in there for the opportunity to arise, (the thieves are) going to move on,” noted Cst. M.J. Burroughs with the St. Albert RCMP.
On a sunny Thursday morning, she and three other officers from the community placement team flicked door handles and peered into windows, marking down which vehicles would be an easy target for thieves.
The officers left pamphlets on windshields, indicating how it ranked during the crime prevention inspection: vehicle unlocked, unsafe parking area, window(s) open, valuables in plain view, or congratulations – safe parking!
During the pamphlet fan-out in North Ridge last week, Burroughs said more than 45 vehicles were checked and eight to 10 of them were left unlocked. People have left everything from brand name sunglasses and purses to phones and laptops in plain view in their vehicles.
These items may not necessarily mean much to the vehicle owner, she says, but they can be enticing for young thieves. Over the long weekend, three teens were arrested for stealing from St. Albert vehicles.
The three teens – one from St. Albert and two from Edmonton – were caught looking into parked vehicles with flashlights at 3 a.m. on Aug. 30. RCMP recovered stolen property including purses, wallets and electronic devices.
“When the RCMP were dealing with the three suspects, one of them stated that they had checked about 150 cars that night and they had found about 100 of the cars were unlocked with items to steal left in them,” stated a RCMP press release.
Officers are warning the public that a professional can steal your vehicle – as well as the contents in it – in just 30 seconds.
“This vehicle here is a good example,” says Burroughs, pointing to a red SUV in the driveway of a house in Deer Ridge.
“I look in and although it is locked, there is probably about $5 in change sitting in the console. Of course I don’t see anything else out in plain view but this tells a thief that if they’re willing to leave that in plain view, what have they put in their glove box?”
RCMP note there is a slight spike in thefts from vehicles – as well as theft of vehicles – in the summer months when residents aren’t as suspicious of night time activity and people are on vacation.
“When it is nicer weather lots of people are out and about, moving on the streets in the evenings and through the night. So we see a rise in it, but that’s not to say it won’t happen in the winter months either,” she said, acknowledging that Christmas is also prime time for theft.
Theft from vehicles has dropped significantly in St. Albert over the past five years. A high of 771 reports occurred in 2009 and continuously declined to 450 in 2012.
Officers do the pamphlet fan-out every summer to increase awareness about stealing. “The police are here to help, but we need the community’s help as well,” she added.
The three teens arrested for stealing from parked vehicles will be facing their charges in St. Albert court in the coming months.
The 17-year-old male youth from St. Albert – who cannot be named as per the Youth Criminal Justice Act – faces nine charges including possession of stolen property, resisting or obstructing a peace officer, mischief to property, and possession of break-in instruments. He will appear in St. Albert youth court on Nov. 5.
Edmonton man, Justin Thomas Elliott, 18, faces three charges including possession of stolen property and failing to comply with a court order.
Matthew Robert McKenna, 18, also of Edmonton, faces seven charges including possession of stolen property, resisting or obstructing a peace officer, mischief to property and failing to comply with a court order. Elliott and McKenna will both appear in St. Albert court on Sept. 9.