Over the course of 48 hours on July 6 and 7 Sylvan Lake RCMP were involved in two separate unrelated incidents involving stolen vehicles within the Town of Sylvan Lake.
The first incident on Wednesday, July 6 occurred while RCMP were conducting an investigation on Sylvan Drive.
An observant member noted a suspicious vehicle around the corner on Parkland Drive that had sustained damage to the front driver’s side wheel. As members approached this vehicle and checked the plate on the motor vehicle database, the plate did not appear to match the vehicle it was currently on – a 2007 black Ford F350.
Upon seeing Sylvan Lake RCMP, a lone male occupant jumped into the driver’s seat and fled the scene. In doing so, the male purposely tried to hit the member who was now standing beside the truck. The member was able to jump out of the way avoiding any injuries. The truck then drove in what police referred to as an erratic manner with no front driver’s wheel across SylvanLake causing numerous complaints to police.
The RCMP stated the danger to the public was very high. As such, police monitored the movements of the suspect truck from a distance knowing that due to the mechanical state of the truck, the vehicle could not drive for any length of time.
“Any one who has driven through town can see the marks that truck made from Sylvan Drive to 50 Street to Highway 20,” stated Corporal James Allemekinders, Sylvan Lake RCMP. “It was starting small grass fires as it went along, because the wheel components were on the pavement, red hot sending sparks out. So members decided to follow from quite a ways back knowing that at some point the vehicle was going to become inoperable.”
Eventually, the truck left town east on Highway 11a, through Poplar Ridge and into the Burnt Lake Industrial Park then westbound onto the Burnt Lake Trail where it eventually stopped atRange Road 283 south of the Burnt Lake Trail. The lone male occupant was taken into custody at that location. The truck was later determined to be a stolen vehicle taken from the Rimbey area on July 2.
Gregory Sigmunder Whitford, 36, of Nanton, Alberta was charged with 13 offences during this event including possession of methamphetamine, assault of a police officer, dangerous driving, flight from police, possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace, possession of stolen property over $5,000 and possession of break in tools.
Subsequently, one female was also charged with aiding and abetting flight from the police for her role in this event. Corporal Allemekinders explained police were able to identify, locate and charge a female accomplice to the driver of the truck who was providing him updates on police positions via cell phone.
“She was talking to him, letting him know where the police were and we’ve been able to secure some of that information,” said Corporal Allemekinders.
The following day on Thursday, July 7th, Sylvan Lake RCMP received a complaint of a suspicious truck parked and unoccupied on Whitecap Close in Sylvan Lake. Members attended and determined it was a stolen black 2014 Ford F150, which had been stolen from the Sylvan Lake area on July 4th.
During the course of the subsequent investigation, members attended a residence on Sylvan Drive, which is well known to police. While speaking to occupants at the front door, a male tried to evade police by jumping out a back window of the house, over a fence into a wooded area.
There he was met by a well-positioned member of the RCMP who took him into custody. A search of the male incidental to arrest located the stolen Ford 150 keys, insurance and registration documents, along with both ammunition and drugs.
Brandon Caleb Robertson, 20 years old of Innisfail was charged with possession of stolen property over $5000, possession of stolen property under $5000 and three counts of failure to comply with recognizance.
Both Whitford and Robertson were brought before a Justice of the Peace and have subsequently been released on their own recognizance, with numerous conditions, to attend court in RedDeer on July 19 at 09:30 a.m.
Corporal Allemekinders reminds owners of motor vehicles to take extra precautions. Never leave your vehicle keys inside your vehicle or leave your vehicle running with the keys inside for any amount of time. Owners of Ford F 350’s made in the mid 2000’s are advised to take after market precautions, such as steering wheel clubs, as these vehicles are the most commonly and easily stolen vehicle in the area.
“In this day and age, economy and crime rate – there is no such thing as small town any more,” he added. “People doing these crimes can be anywhere whether it’s Eckville, Bentley, SylvanLake or even rural properties – criminals could be driving down a gravel road see an F-350, walk onto the property and take it in thirty seconds.”