Attending the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch AGM earlier this month was a trip down memory lane as they say. RCMP guests including Wetaskiwin commander Insp. Keith Durance resonated with me as the message that police and crime prevention advocates spread now are the same I’ve been hearing throughout my 25 year journalism career.
One of the RCMP commanders I worked with earlier in my career, Sgt. Pete Sopow, gave me a lot of great advice and information about crime prevention and how police investigate crime.
Some of it was simply practical safety advice. The community we lived in was getting its highway upgraded from two-lane to divided four-lane, something as a small town Alberta boy, I wasn’t all that familiar with. Pete told me after they upgraded that highway, there would be a lot of commercial trucks on that route. He said always give those trucks a wide berth and never sit in the left hand lane right beside one of those trucks. He said if anything comes off of it, or it blows a tire, all of it will be right at the level your head is at inside your vehicle. Good advice.
During the recent meeting, RCMP noted that police in Alberta are targeting prolific offenders, and noted about eight to 10 per cent of criminals are actually responsible for about 80 per cent of the crime. That reminds me of something Pete told me, after our community suffered a mini-crime wave. Pete and I both went out to a local restaurant that had recently been broken into and robbed. Pete showed me how the culprit had cut the phone line which the security system also ran through. He said for the most part, only serious career criminals know things like this. He said a good investigator will try to find out which serious criminals were recently released from jail, and whether they were in the area the night the break and enter occurred. Pete said that’s the smartest place to start.
At the Rosebrier meeting, Insp. Durance noted most of the criminals in the region are not movie-quality pros that can hot-wire a car in 10 seconds. That reminds me of something Pete told me one time. I was chatting with him about my living arrangements, since I could afford a bachelor loft above a downtown store, right on Main Street. I told him there were a lot of shady looking characters walking down Main Street all the time and I was a bit concerned about my car being parked out there all night. Pete said don’t leave anything visible in the car because that’s what the shady characters will be looking for (wallets, phones, credit cards left lying right on the dash, computers etc.) and buy a “club.” That’s the steering wheel lock, not a weapon to arm yourself with. He said most criminals are lazy, and when they look inside they’ll see the steering wheel lock and keep waking because they know how much work it is to cut one of those locks off.
As Insp. Durance noted most vehicle security or disabling systems nowadays are enough to scare off car thieves. They’ll move on to find a vehicle that was left unlocked.
It’s sad that we, as law-abiding citizens, have to put in a lot of effort to discourage the thieves and burglars. At another newspaper a few years ago, I received a call one morning from a fellow whose garage had been burglarized. He was quite angry, despite the fact he’d left the garage door wide open all night. After I pointed that out, he became quite indignant and muttered something to the effect, “Why should I have to lock my garage? That’s extra work for me to do.”
Yes, it’s more work for all of us and yes, we’re the law-abiding citizens. It’s not fair, but if we ignore crime prevention and continue to leave our homes, cars, garages and property open and inviting to big city criminals, they’ll keep coming out here for what they see as a free ride.
Let’s see if we can’t disappoint them.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.