A rash of recent truck thefts in Ponoka has some residents worried and more than a little frustrated.
Riverside resident Anthony Neufeldt, 32, had his customized 2006 Ford F-350 stolen from in front of his home on Oct. 13.
“Personally, I never really noticed [the number of thefts] until my truck got stolen,” said Neufeldt, adding he started paying attention on social media pages.
The truck, distinctive with its lift kick, large tires, black slip tank, tinted windows, red LED lights and a light bar on the roof, was spotted and possibly involved in a crime in Eckville, but hasn’t been recovered, says Neufeldt.
“It’s very frustrating, and I think it’s not just myself.”
Neufeldt bought a new truck on Oct. 31 — the same model, but with a kill switch installed as well as a hidden GPS tracker. Thieves again attempted to take it but were unable to.
He drove around that night until 2:30 a.m. and says he only saw one police officer.
“They need to step it up … the majority of crime happens at night.”
He also feels the court system isn’t effective, as criminals get a three to six month sentence, and as soon as they are released, they are stealing vehicles again the next night.
“They are accustomed to jail — a six-month sentence is nothing to them.”
According to statistics from the Ponoka RCMP detachment, vehicle thefts are on the rise this year and trucks are specifically being targeted in the Ponoka area.
So far in 2019, there have been a total of 82 motor vehicle thefts from the town of Ponoka and the portion of the county in the Ponoka detachment’s jurisdiction (57 from in town and 25 from in the county).
Of those thefts, 18 were in a six-week period from the beginning of October to mid-November (one theft in the county, and 17 in town).
Out of the total 82 vehicle thefts, 50 were trucks, SUV’s or vans.
Cst. Myron Lemke of the Ponoka detachment’s General Investigation Services (GIS) says trucks are more desirable to criminals as they are required for further crimes, such as hauling loads of stolen goods, or stealing horse trailers, RV’s or boats.
In 2018, there were a total of 56 vehicle thefts from within town limits and 27 from rural Ponoka.
With those numbers, the thefts in town have already surpassed 2018 numbers, and with over a month left in 2019, the numbers for rural vehicle thefts is likely to be surpassed as well, says Lemke.
The reality may not be as bad as the numbers indicate, however, as some reports of vehicle thefts do wind up being unfounded, as in the cases of disputed ownership between exes, says Lemke.
According to Lemke, the up-tick in vehicle thefts is typical for this time of year.
As the weather gets colder vehicle thefts increase as criminals are less likely to want to walk, and will take a vehicle to get from point A to point B, as a matter of opportunity and convenience.
A locked door isn’t necessarily a deterrent, either.
“We don’t ever recommend leaving a vehicle running with keys at all, because thieves will smash the window, especially if they have no interested in keeping it long-term.”
Lemke also warns to never leave valuables in your vehicle. Things such as fire fighting equipment, hockey gear, hunting equipment and even loose change are known to tempt thieves.
There are three main reasons why vehicle thefts occur: for profit, as criminals will re-VIN a stolen vehicle and sell it, to use vehicles to commit further crimes and for either transportation or joy riding.
Property crime, including vehicle thefts, have a direct correlation to drug use, says Lemke. As one increases, so does the other. There is also some correlation to hard economic times and an increase in property crime.
With the increase in vehicle thefts, there has also been a rise in incidents of police vehicles being rammed, and officers are getting hurt, says Lemke.
To help combat property crime, Lemke says to report all thefts, even small ones, as all information helps map crime and tells police where resources are needed most.
“If you know this is going on, come down and talk to us.”
Police need information, evidence and probable grounds to carry out search warrants.
In recent cases in Ponoka, drug houses have been involved in the recovery of stolen vehicles, and since the summer, several search warrants of homes have been carried out, says Lemke.
Lemke says the court system can be frustrating, but the cost of living in a free society is that we can’t just put criminals in jail indefinitely and throw away the key — there is a process and criminals still have rights.
The justice system is like a climbing ladder, with the consequences escalating with each new offence, and it becomes more difficult to get out of jail each time, he says.
The Ponoka RCMP detachment aggressively monitors prolific offenders and those released on conditions.