By Tim Kalinowski, Staff Writer
Although cattle related crime is down this year, says Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association president Trevor Tychkowsky, there has been a marked increase in break and enters and general farm theft across the province.
“We have seen a general spike in rural crime this year,” confirms Tychkowsky. “Typically that was more in the summer as people were getting out to the lakes more often with their recreational units, and were further away from home. In the winter that does seem to drop a bit, whether this year will be the same case will be determined.”
This “spike” may be attributable to the province’s economic downturn, says Tychkowsky, but not necessarily.
“The spike might be because of the economic downturn, but I don’t know; that’s hard to prove. There are definitely more crimes happening, and most of what we are seeing is the thefts that are happening. There is more of the break and enters into buildings and stuff like that. That’s why we’re trying to educate people to make sure they are locking up there stuff and being more diligent.”
Diligence is definitely key, he says, but there are also some more practical steps farmers can take to discourage crime.
“We need to educate people more on the need to lock all their stuff up, as well as clearly identify your property by putting some markings on it. We’ve had several break and enters that have happened where the police have caught the person, but there is absolutely no way of proving it was the property owners’ stuff.”
Expensive cameras, alarms and GPS chips would be extremely effective to help with this marking process, but also potentially cost prohibitive in some cases. Tychkowsky says there are less expensive options which can be helpful in tracking down would be thieves.
“There are several simple ways people can do that,” he says. “Engraving their drivers’ license number on that piece of equipment or some other kind of identifier mark. Or they can use invisible pen which can only be seen through an infrared light.”
But by far the most effective way to prevent crime is to keep a sharp eye out and call it in when you see suspicious vehicles or activities, says Tychkowsky.
“As Rural Crime Watch, we definitely encourage people to put up their signage. The main idea behind Rural Crime Watch is neighbours watching out for neighbours. When they are going about their day, we encourage them to inform their neighbours if there is a strange vehicle driving around. Reporting that stuff to the police. A lot of people think: ‘It’s just probably somebody hunting.’ Too often we are taking this stuff for granted, and by the time somebody sends word it is already too late and the (thieves) have already hit multiple people.”
Tychkowsky says its better to be a little paranoid than overly passive in these kinds of situations.
“It’s better to call in and be wrong than not to call in at all and take the chance your neighbour will have their property stolen or damaged.”