Any hopes for an end to the thefts and wilful damage affecting vehicles in Prince Albert were dashed last weekend, following a succession of new incidents.
On Saturday at 2:42 a.m., police responded to the Unit Block of Marquis Road West after receiving a complaint of three vehicles having their items smashed and items stolen from within.
The vehicles were parked in a well-lit area. Stolen items included winter jackets, DVDs, diapers, a shovel, gift items such as chocolates and jewelry boxes, pillows, shoes and beer.
“Just about anything that wasn’t locked down was taken from these vehicles,” police representative Sgt. Kelly McLean said. Investigators have requested on-location video surveillance tapes to help solve the case.
That same night, approximately seven vehicles in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Branion Drive had their windows broken. Unlike on Marquis Road, nothing appeared to have been stolen, eliminating theft as a possible motive.
“When we have a motive for a crime, it makes it … not quite as challenging to investigate,” McLean said. “We have those items that may be pawned or attempted to be sold. In the case of winter jackets. they may be worn, they may turn up in another community someplace. We do have leads that we can follow.
“In the case of somebody smashing windows as they walk by, it’s extremely difficult.”
Theft was certainly the motive in a third incident that occurred Monday in the 1400 block of Sixth Avenue East.
Police were dispatched to a theft complaint at 12:44 a.m. and arrived to find a vehicle with its window smashed and an iPod and sunglasses stolen. The owner identified the suspect as a male, roughly 6’ 2”, wearing dark clothing.
Since theft cases tend to be easier to solve, police are currently most concerned about vandalism. They are attempting to piece together what happened on Branion Drive using available physical evidence, such as the fact that in each case the perpetrator smashed the rear window on the driver’s side.
“In this specific case … the information that we have from these incidents would seem to indicate that it’s somebody on foot,” McLean said. “There’s nothing being left at the scene. We’ve talked about this in the past, where it’s been a weapon … or a tool of opportunity, where it’s a rock or a piece of concrete. There’s nothing being left in these vehicles. So it’s leading us to believe that somebody’s carrying something -- a pipe, a bat, a piece of hockey stick.”
It’s pretty difficult at 20 below to go without a window in your vehicle. Sgt. Kelly McLean
Because there is traffic on Branion day and night, passers-by rarely attract suspicion. The lack of video surveillance in the area has also made officers’ pursuit of their quarry more difficult.
Owners of affected vehicles may be the most obvious victims, but as McLean noted, the ongoing plague of wilful damage and theft from vehicles has a wider impact.
“This is frustrating for the people that own these vehicles. It’s frustrating for the insurance company. It’s frustrating for the police, and it should be frustrating for the community,” he said “For those that aren’t frustrated, we have to remember that all of those insurance claims end up costing us as individuals in the long run too, because somebody has to pay for this.
“Unfortunately, the cost is sometimes less than what the deductible is for people and they end up having to pay for this out of their own pocket. It’s pretty difficult at 20 below to go without a window in your vehicle.
“This damage has to be prepared, so we’d like to put a stop to it.”
Although police have recently made arrests in similar cases, it was of no help here.
“It’s difficult to try to zero in on past arrests because when we go and look at previous suspects, they have alibis,” McLean said. “They’re not involved. They have been young people in the past, they’ve been adults in the past. That avenue hasn’t worked for us either, so we’re relying on the public to report suspicious activity.”
Anyone with pertinent information should call police at 953-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers will pay a cash reward for any tip leading to an arrest.