By Lachlan Labere, Black Press
The bait’s been cast and police are waiting to reel in unsuspecting snowmobile thieves.
Sicamous and Revelstoke RCMP have once again deployed the bait sled program, targeting thieves while promoting a proactive approach among sledders.
“We have the same plan of attack as last year between Sicamous and Revelstoke,” says Cpl. Thomas Blakney of the Revelstoke RCMP detachment. “There’s a lot of crafty items that we have to target the criminals into actually taking the snowmobile and/or vehicle and/or trailer.”
The bait vehicles are all part of the RCMP’s arsenal to help deter sled theft, which has been an ongoing issue for both communities. Last winter, Blakney and former Sicamous Sgt. Dave Dubnyk decided to up the police effort against that, getting in touch with the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team to see about “using bait sleds and trucks to catch thieves in action.” From there, the program was born.
Blakney says the bait vehicles/trailers are only one part of the program. Additional surveillance is also key to the program’s success. This includes officers setting up early-morning check stops on the highways, targeting trucks with sleds as they enter or leave Revelstoke and Sicamous.
“They were pulled over to identify, first of all, are they the registered owner, what kind of sleds are they hauling, do they own the sleds?” said Blakney. “Generally, what’s going to happen is you’ll have people and it’s not their stuff and they’re stealing it and the police are behind them, then it’s a panic situation. We had one of those last year which led to the arrest of one individual.”
Blakney said the majority of people pulled over last year were appreciative and encouraging of the effort being made to protect their winter toys.
“There’s a lot of Albertans that come to our province and they bring some pretty expensive snowmobiles, and they come for the weekend and they wake up the next day and it’s gone,” said Blakney. “Well, their weekend’s ruined, the insurance companies are taking a huge hit and, at the end of the day, they’re left with nothing. Sometimes they don’t have a vehicle. Enough is enough, so we’re doing our best to stop that.”
Police will also be using their own snowmobiles catch up with sledders and provide information on how to better protect their investments from theft.
Blakney believes snowmobile thefts are commonly related to organized crime. The actual theft, he says, can happen very quickly, though the process can begin on the snowmobiling trails with spotters looking out for the more valuable sleds. If the theft is successful, says Blakney, the stolen goods can be chopped for parts and/or the vehicle identification numbers changed and the end products sold off.
“It’s buyer beware,” said Blakney. “If you know you’re getting something that’s too good to be true and you don’t look into it, you could get charged with possession.”
The RCMP corporal encourages sledders be proactive, parking vehicles strategically and/or in well-lit areas, marking sleds with ID numbers, locking all equipment and using anti-theft devices. Recording all identifying information is also a big help. Blakney suggests using cell phones to photograph your sled and its VIN. This way, if the vehicle is stolen, the photos can be sent to police who can take immediate measures towards its recovery.