Along with the fireworks and celebrations of Canada Day, July started off with several residents waking up to discover that the batteries off of their RVs had been stolen.
Chestermere RCMP Detachment Commander Staff Sgt. Mark Wielgosz said that the RCMP received a number of complaints of stolen batteries between July 1 and July 3.
He said that the police area aware of the photos, video and information about the suspects in the thefts posted on social media.
While the investigations into the battery thefts are ongoing, police have circulated the images to other police departments and detachments in Alberta to try and identify the persons responsible for these crimes.
As Chestermere’s RCMP continue to work to identify and arrest suspects in this most recent string of thefts, Wielgosz stresses the importance of reporting crimes and suspicious activity to the police.
“If you see something, say something,” said Wielgosz, “if something’s going on, report it.”
Even if the police aren’t able to catch anyone at the time, seeing the crime trends in Chestermere is important to the larger policing strategy.
“We do need to know where these crimes are being committed,” said Wielgosz, “because if we have a high rate of non-reporting of crime, it’s difficult to pinpoint where our hotspots are and where we should be directing our resources.”
Police will focus their efforts on areas that the know are being targeted by thieves.
“So, if an entire street was hit with some property crime and it’s happening repetitively and nobody’s calling it in, we’re focusing our efforts where we know activity is going on,” he said.
“Report crimes, no matter how small, even if there’s nothing we can do about it at that time, we have that data that we can use to help direct our activities,” said Wielgosz.
Chestermere’s RCMP have also had success catching people when suspicious activity has been called in promptly.
“We have had some success in the past with timely reports of suspicious activity where we’ve been able to prevent crime or even catch a person in the act,” said Wielgosz.
Reporting crimes and suspicious activity, after the fact while important in catching criminals, doesn’t prevent thieves from targeting homes and properties.
To reduce the chances of being targeted, residents are being reminded to always lock their doors and secure their property.
Wielgosz realizes that with the warmer weather comes increased activity as people get back outside and have the opportunity to enjoy their yards and the outdoors again, which makes it more difficult to secure these things against thieves.
This applies in particular to things such as RV’s, patio furniture, and lawn ornaments that generally sit out through the summer.
“With RV equipment… sometimes it can be difficult depending on how your trailers are being stored, but securing all the items, loose items along your trailer as best as you can is the best way you can go about it,” said Wielgosz.
He suggest people pay particular attention to the use of hitch locks when the trailer is not attached to a vehicle so that thieves can’t just hook up and drive off with it.
“Other things such as RV batteries, again those things are difficult to secure, but there are potential options if you can find metal strapping that’s adjustable that you can lock,” he said.
The same goes for external propane tanks and trying to find a way to lock them in place.
“Certainly, that makes it much more difficult for a person to try and take the batteries off your trailer,” he said.
When storing RVs and camping trailers on one’s property, trying to keep the area well light will also make them less attractive targets for thieves.
When it comes to the rest of the yard, putting as many loose items away in a garage or locked shed is the best strategy.
“Where there’s loose items in the yard, such as garden accessories, bikes or other tools for that matter, you know, as much stuff as you can put away in a secure area the best,” said Wielgosz.
Looking beyond the home, getting to know one’s neighbours and building the sense of community can do a lot to help prevent crimes in a neighbourhood.
“We can all work together to keep an eye on each other’s properties, so we know what’s suspicious and what isn’t,” said Wielgosz.
“If your neighbours know who you are, who’s supposed to be at your home, the kind of vehicles that are supposed to be there, and certainly if you’re away or not, that’ll go a long way to try and identify what’s suspicious activity and what isn’t,” he said.
To this end, Wielgosz recommends the city’s block party program as a way to build relationships in the community.
Often police, firefighters, city peace officers or members of council are able to attend these parties.
“That’s one easy way to get to know the people of your street,” he said.
Regardless of how well one knows one’s neighbours, Wielgosz said if something seems suspicious call police and they can come check it out.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said.
“It’s those extra eyes out there, we can’t be everywhere, all the time we need help from the public to report what they see,” said Wielgosz.
One final strategy that he recommends is, like the Calgary Police Service is recommending, create a regular nighttime routine to secure one’s home and yard before going to bed at night.
“At a point in time where it’s not quite dark yet or it’s not too late…just do a walk around your property,” he said, “check everything… lock everything up.”
Wielgosz said that about 50 per cent of theft in Chestermere last fiscal year was preventable by locking or otherwise securing property.
“So, if you can add that to your daily routine…to do a quick walk around and lock up your belongings, that would go a long way to help prevent crime in our community,” he said.