Another well attended Benalto and Area Rural Crime Watch Society meeting resulted in a full house at Benalto Leisure Centre last Thursday night.
Cst. Ryan MacArthur of CN Police Service was the evening’s guest speaker, while the society’s partners from local protective services provided updates on their activities.
Speaking first was Red Deer County senior patrol officer Bob Dixon, who warned attendees of an anticipated increase in fuel theft in the near future.
“We’re expecting to see an increase in marked fuel theft from farms in the south end of the county, in particular,” he said. “I don’t think that’s unusual to hear, but with fuel prices going up, you probably should make sure you’re locking everything up.”
He also noted a rash of stolen vehicles in Red Deer County. One instance near Blackfalds saw ten stolen by the same suspect.
Most were unlocked with keys inside.
“Please make sure you’re locking everything up and protecting your property,” said Dixon.
Sylvan Lake RCMP Cst. Marty Reed said members of his detachment have also had their “hands full” with stolen vehicles.
“95 per cent of the time, doors are unlocked, keys are in the vehicle,” he said.
“In this day and age, I don’t know why a $65,000 pickup truck is not locked, and why somebody would leave the keys in it. When we find it, it’s not worth $65,000 anymore.”
Over in Lacombe County, things are “status quo at this point”, according to director of emergency management Julian Veuger.
A new recruit means there are now five officers patrolling the county, including an expansion area at Nova Chemicals’ Joffre site.
“Our big focus is the Nova expansion,” said Veuger. “There are a number of strategy meetings going to happen in the next few months on how were going to deal with some of the traffic issues, especially the congestion early in the morning and at the end of the day.”
He added: “There’s a lot of work and energy being spent into how we’re going to do some better patrols and reinforcement”.
With warmer weather, Cst. Reed expects to see an increase in firearms complaints, as people begin shooting gophers and coyotes, or just shooting in general.
He spoke of a sharp increase in copper wire theft over the last two weeks, with thieves entering well sites and removing grounding wire.
“Fortunately, we haven’t showed up there and found any bodies yet, but it’s going to happen,” he said. “These guys are getting pretty reckless in how they’re doing it, and they’re causing quite a bit of damage.”
He told attendees to report any suspicious vehicles on or near their property, and to take note of a vehicle’s colour, licence plate, make, model and number of occupants.
“That’s all pertinent information to us,” he said.
Cst. MacArthur expanded on the issue of metal theft in his keynote presentation discussing it from his own perspective as CN police officer.
“Metal theft is probably our biggest criminal offence against CN property,” he said. “It’s not just a problem for any particular industry, it’s a problem for all industries, and it’s a nationwide problem.”
The theft is being driven primarily by the rising price of copper, which, he said is at “an all-time high for its price per pound”.
Copper theft from railway tracks can be particularly problematic, he added.
“All of our wiring deals with our gates and our signals, and without those, we can’t ensure the safety of people when they’re crossing at a railway.
“The last thing we want is some to get hit by a train.”
At press time, there had been eight crossing accidents reported in Alberta this year. MacArthur said he and his colleagues strive to reduce that number to zero, to prevent the potential for injury, fatality and vehicular damage.
“When you’re dealing with something that size, it’s not going to take much to cause a lot of damage.
“How can you help us and, therefore, help yourself? Any metal theft you see, report it to us.”
The sooner a theft is reported, the higher the chance the metal will be recovered. Often, thieves try to quickly offload their haul at scrap metal recycling yards.
“These scrap metal places get rid of their metal quite quickly,” said MacArthur. “We were dealing with a metal theft last summer, and we were there within a few days and they’d already got rid of all the metal, with the exception of a couple parts.”
MacArthur concluded his presentation by encouraging attendees to be observant around potential metal theft, and to report any activity or person they deem suspicious.
“It’s a small town. If you see somebody that doesn’t look like they belong here, they probably don’t belong here.”
The meeting was the society’s last until its annual meeting in October, when elections will be held.
President Yvette Brideau said potential new directors are welcome to put their name forward.
“There are three directors meetings a year, so we keep things pretty simple,” she said. “We know you’re all busy.”
The few meetings the society holds are never short of attendance, and Brideau is grateful for the support.
“We have Crime Watch provincially that have 1,500 people, and they can’t get more than 10 people at their meeting,” she said. “We have probably more than 50 per cent of our membership here.”
The society encourages people looking for more information to contact its RCMP liaison at the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment at 403-858-7200.