John Wyzykoski was working in a shed on his Benalto-area farm when he heard his truck start up.
At first, he thought maybe a neighbour had come to borrow it. He stepped out and took a look just in time to see his pickup and 30-foot trailer speeding off.
“He took off through my corral and through two double-steel gates, just smashed right through,” said the 75-year-old.
The thief tore through his barley field, sliced through a barbed wire fence, and bounced through a ditch before disappearing down a nearby gravel road.
Wyzykoski said the theft happened about 1:15 p.m., in broad daylight, on Tuesday, only a few metres from where he was working. He had planned to take the truck to check on his cattle later that afternoon and left the keys inside.
“I don’t know how he got here. He obviously walked,” said Wyzykoski, who has farmed this property 15 km southwest of Benalto for 45 years. He caught a glimpse of the thief, a young guy wearing a ball cap was about all he could make out.
Neighbours found the trailer abandoned in the middle of a gravel road about six kilometres from his farm. The truck has disappeared.
Theft has always been a part of farm life, where police are scarce and homes are isolated.
“Before, I lost tools, batteries and fuel,” he said, adding local young trouble-makers were the likely culprits.
But the last three years or so, the crimes are getting worse. More expensive property is getting stolen and rural residents are being confronted by thieves, sometimes at gunpoint, in their own homes.
He has given up keeping his bulk fuel tank filled, it has been drained by thieves so often in recent years.
“We feel pretty helpless,” he said.
“I was telling my wife it’s not going to get better unless they change the law. We’ve got a dysfunctional justice system.”
As long as the courts allow arrested thieves back out on the streets within days, if not hours, of being apprehended nothing is going to change.
Wyzykoski does not understand why known repeat offenders cannot be locked up for longer rather than freeing them to continue stealing.
He is also frustrated by how long it takes for police to arrive.
It was about 90 minutes before an officer turned up and he seemed more concerned about getting Wyzykoski to move his stolen trailer off the road than finding his truck.
Wyzykoski said he is not alone in becoming a victim. There have been numerous robberies in the area, in the last few days alone. One neighbour was robbed twice in the last 10 days.
Last summer, a neighbour five miles away was robbed at gunpoint. Among the property stolen were the farmer’s guns.
Wyzykoski’s wife, Letty, knows of another woman who was confronted in her home as she lay in bed about two weeks ago. The robber told her to stay put and then took off with her purse.
Someone is going to get hurt — shot or run down by a stolen vehicle — if the crime wave can’t be stopped, the couple believes.
John Wyzykoski has little hope of getting his truck back. It’s probably already in a chop shop. Neighbours suspect several properties in the area are hiding chop shops, he said.
If anyone sees his truck call police. It’s insured but worth more to him than he’ll get through insurance, he said. It is a black Dodge 350 with dual rear tires and a hitch in the rear bed for a goose neck trailer.