Central Alberta farmer John Wyzykoski has lost count of the number of friends and neighbours who have come by his property to commiserate.
Wyzykoski voiced his anger and frustration last week with the plague of rural crime and a justice system seemingly unable to cope after his pickup and a 30-foot trailer were stolen from his farmyard in broad daylight on Oct. 1.
“I’ve had quite a few people stopping in,” he said of the reaction since the Red Deer Advocate told his story last Friday.
“It’s just reinforced how the people are traumatized, because they’ve lost stuff out of their yard.”
No one questions that violent crimes should take priority when police investigate, he said.
But he argues that rampant property crime is hurting people, although the wounds may not be as obvious.
“The mental problems it’s causing in this community — it’s overwhelming.”
He knows of rural residents hit by thieves — often more than once — who rely on sedatives to sleep, they remain so nervous about their vulnerability.
In Wyzykoski’s case, his trailer was found within hours of it being stolen at around 1:15 p.m., abandoned in the middle of a gravel road about six kilometres away.
Neighbours have since been on the lookout for his pickup, and one snapped a cellphone photo of it last Friday morning. The driver had stopped to beg or steal gasoline at a road construction site near highways 2 and 11A, but was chased off.
The truck still had Wyzykoski’s licence plate on it, but the thief had strapped a tailgate on, held tight with tie-down straps.
Wyzykoski only had a net across the back of his truck when he drove it, because it was handier to pull the goose-neck trailer.
The sighting was called in to police, but nothing has happened, said Wyzykoski, who, like many of his neighbours, is frustrated by what they see as a lack of concern by police to seriously investigate property crime.
That Wyzykoski’s story has struck a chord is apparent by the number of people who commented on the Advocate’s story on Facebook.
Many voiced their anger at how little has been done to stop rural thieves. Several said residents need to arm themselves to protect their property.
One commenter said her property had been hit three times. Another said they were victimized four times in a week.
Wyzykoski said Conservative candidate Blaine Calkins has agreed to meet with area residents at Hespero Hall, about 30 kilometres west of Sylvan Lake on Highway 11, on Friday at 7 p.m.
Clearwater Community Crime Watch is also encouraging residents to turn out to Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer’s Rocky Mountain House stop on Oct. 25, which is part of a provincewide tour to hear from residents.
The government also has an online rural crime survey at www.alberta.ca/ruralcrime.