A Rocky Mountain House RCMP crackdown on rampant quad stealing has the bad guys on the run and dramatically reduced the number of thefts.
“At this time last year, we had 22 quads stolen. This year, we’ve had three quads stolen, with one not recovered,” said Rocky RCMP Cpl. Wayne Howse.
Police launched their get-tough approach on quad thieves late last year after the number of offroad vehicles stolen reached epidemic proportions.
Police estimated that up to 140 quads had been stolen from February to December, a staggering $1 million in property losses.
Many of the stolen quads were swiped in Rocky, and most of those later ended up on the O’Chiese Reserve. The thieves often stole them for joy rides and it was not uncommon for police to recover pilfered quads damaged beyond repair and left in the bush.
Brazen thieves, often equipped with extra gas to get them to O’Chiese, prowled back alleys looking for quads to steal. Sometimes, they would be loaded on trucks and whisked away in the dead of night.
To stem the flood of quads out of the community, police stepped up enforcement efforts. Officers didn’t hesitate to hand out tickets when they saw road rules broken by quad riders, and licences and insurance were checked regularly when suspicions were aroused.
Police and judges are using stringent release terms on those apprehended, to make life more difficult for suspected thieves. They include prohibitions against operating any motor vehicle without the owner present.
Police also pulled together lists of the likely suspects and began making arrests.
In late February, police officers made a late-night visit to a home on the O’Chiese Reserve and surprised 16-year-olds wanted in connection with a number of quad thefts. One youth was found in a closet and another two in a cupboard. Two of the three were charged with possession of stolen property in relation to quad thefts.
They can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. One youth was not charged.
One of the youths ended up with nearly two dozen charges for theft, drug trafficking, mischief and violating various court orders. Some of the charges were in relation to four quad thefts from the Elk River area.
Police went to the reserve again on Monday, hoping to make another four arrests. They found only one of the four wanted youths. The 15-year-old faces 15 new charges, including numerous counts of theft over $5,000 and possession of stolen property in relation to quad thefts dating back to August 2008.
RCMP aren’t done. Howse has a list of about 20 suspects, more than half of them young offenders, police want to round up.
The word is out that police are getting tough on quad thefts, he said.
“A lot of these people are on the run. Some have left the area and are hiding out.”
And for those who are spotted by police, but not immediately thrown in the back of a cruiser, Howse has a message: don’t get too comfortable.
“They should not feel a sense of security and that the police won’t be dealing with them.”