RCMP laid 34 charges against eight people and seized 11 stolen vehicles, drugs and a sawed-off rifle during a four-day covert operation last week.
The operation ran in Red Deer and area from Dec. 5-8 and included RCMP officers from a number of units.
Red Deer RCMP Insp. Gerald Grobmeier said weeks were spent planning the operation, which involved at various times between 10 and 16 officers, as well as crime analysts and the use of a police helicopter.
“In some ways, it’s been in the works for a year,” he said, adding it is part of the Red Deer RCMP’s crime reduction strategy known as Project Pinpoint.
“We had a lot of analytic work done behind the scenes they help us determine where to employ our resources,” said Grobmeier.
In all, 13 people were arrested and 34 outstanding warrants executed.
Officers from the Red Deer RCMP Community Response Unit, general investigative service and general duty, the RCMP Emergency Response Team, Blackfalds RCMP and Police Dog Services were involved.
During the arrests, fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine were seized along with the rifle and bear spray.
Five men and three women between the ages of 22 and 45 were arrested and are facing numerous charges.
While vehicle theft was at the heart of the operation the purpose extended far beyond tracking a few stolen vehicles down.
“Recovering of stolen vehicles isn’t really that much of an issue here,” he said, adding that most are soon recovered.
“Our ultimate goal is for crime reduction in Red Deer. These types of vehicles in particular are being used for so many different types of crimes besides being a stolen vehicle,” he said, offering armed robberies, home invasions and drug dealing as examples.
Not only that, once behind the wheel, criminals pose a danger to the public and police.
“There’s always that danger of coming up behind one of them and trying to pull them over and them either ramming a police car or taking off at a high speed.”
That is why a clandestine approach was taken, to grab suspects before they have a chance to create mayhem on the roads.
“It was very covert. It averted those type of stops that are always very dangerous,” he said.
“It’s certainly a different culture out there now. Time and time again our police officers are being rammed. It happened again just a few nights ago.
“It seems to be a technique they are deploying and they really have no regard as to what damage or injuries they cause. It’s not a Red Deer phenomenon. It’s happening everywhere now.”
Crooks have not seen the last of this kind of police effort.
“While we aren’t going to divulge our methods of locating and tracking criminals in stolen vehicles in order to arrest them without harm to the public or to our police officers, I will say that our community – and the prolific criminals within it – can expect to hear about more of these types of operations,” he said.
“Red Deer RCMP continue to aggressively apply pressure to habitual offenders through a wide range of targeted, evidence-based crime reduction strategies.”
At least two of the stolen vehicles had been taken when they were left unlocked and running, said police. A number of those arrested had numerous outstanding warrants, 15 in one case and 11 in another.
A 29-year-old man was found by police sitting in a stolen vehicle in a handicapped parking space outside a gas station. He was found with bear spray in violation of court-imposed release conditions and is now facing six criminal charges as well as a traffic charge for parking in a handicapped spot.
A 34-year-old man was charged for impaired driving after he drove over a median in front of police involved in the covert operation. In that case, the vehicle was not stolen.
RCMP also recovered other stolen property and the investigation is continuing.