By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – If you look out your front window and see police poking around your vehicle, don’t get paranoid. They are just doing some field research to see how many of us are locking up our vehicles. Beginning the week of Mar. 17, Constable Justin St. Onge of the Morinville RCMP Detachment will be undertaking a project to see if residents are making themselves easy targets for local and visiting criminals.
St. Onge, who joined the RCMP Detachment four months ago, has been tasked with two assignments: profiling a community and undertaking a project to examine an issue affecting a community. St. Onge will profile Bon Accord and do a vehicle check program in Morinville.
“Since I’ve been here, a call that we have frequently is thefts from a motor vehicle,” St. Onge said, adding after having items stolen, people are concerned about the initial loss of property and the future potential of identity theft. “You have people losing hundreds of dollars of stuff out of their vehicle, and it will happen that there are six vehicles on the block that get ripped off. We’ve got nothing to go on usually.”
The constable explained over the winter months thieves are wearing winter gloves. As such, there are no fingerprints to lift. Additionally, the thieves are experienced and know how to not leave any clues. “These people are doing it all the time,” he said of the thieves. “If they’re doing an entire block, they know what to touch and what not to touch. We’re usually left empty handed. We take a statement, get some pictures, and it dies in the water.”
St. Onge has been present for one arrest related to thefts from vehicles in Morinville. The suspect vehicle was alleged to have been full of stolen items and police believe those charged had been involved in stealing from vehicles for some weeks.
He believes thieves are attracted to the area by the lure of high-end merchandise in high-end subdivisions, coupled with the false sense of security residents may have living in a safe community. St. Onge said the Lakes and South Glens are two areas that have seen a rash of thefts from vehicles.
Prevention is key
The constable’s policing project tests the theory residents simply aren’t locking their vehicles. “During the interviews and the statements that we got from people that were ripped off, we found that most of them weren’t locking their doors,” St. Onge said. “No one deserves to be ripped off, whether you forget to lock your door or not. You don’t deserve to have your stuff ripped off. We’re constantly telling people to lock their doors.”
Taking a different path to get the message across, St. Onge will be putting boots on the ground on Morinville streets and driveways to check car and truck doors.
“We’re going to try and get some numbers from that,” he said, adding it may change people’s perceptions if they see some hard numbers in the paper. “Everyone thinks they are in a friendly town, but we are not far from Edmonton, and we’re not far from a lot of crime. For a small town this size a lot of serious crime rolls through.”
St. Onge is quick to point out he will not be hopping in vehicles. If the door is unlocked, it will be shut and a pamphlet will be left under the vehicle’s wiper blades informing owners of what might have happened to their valuables had a less ethical person tried the door handle.
For the RCMP, it really is as simple as locking doors and removing valuables. St. Onge has run the numbers to prove vehicle break-ins are an issue here. In 2012 there were 106 files opened relating to thefts from vehicles. Forty of those occurred in Morinville, half of those were in the summer months of June through August. Of the 40 cases, only two were cleared by charge.
“What we’re hoping to do is make people aware of this before summer rolls around so we can prevent some of that crime,” St. Onge said.