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Property Crime on the Rise

Property Crime on the Rise

People with drug addictions often resort to stealing property in order to fuel their habits. But the commander of ALERT’s organized crime team in Medicine Hat says they are more brazen in their thefts than ever before.

Staff Sgt. Kelsey Fraser has been a police officer for 22 years. He said that there is an “undeniable correlation” between the rise in drug issues in Medicine Hat and the “exponential” rise in property crimes.

Stolen property recovered by ALERT Medicine Hat during an investigation that concluded in December 2019.

“We have open-air shoplifting now, where people don’t even try to mask it,” Fraser said. “These people are known drug users in our city. It has almost become a common behaviour now, to see these drug users and people in that subculture at stores, walking in and walking out with a cart full of goods. It seems that the culture and the conscience of people have changed to fuel their habits. They just don’t care.”

Sometimes, people with addictions will steal property and sell it for cash to buy drugs. But Fraser says what’s becoming more common is for drug dealers to send people with addictions out with a list of goods to steal.

“Some of those goods have become commodities; they’re better than cash to some people that are waiting for them,” he said.

“We’ve actually seized physical shopping lists from people that were caught doing a bunch of thefts. And they’ve said in the interviews, ‘Yeah, if I get all these things rounded up and give to this dealer, then I’m gonna get my two ounces of coke or meth.’ So we have people going out with shopping lists of things to steal in order to use it as a commodity to get their drugs.”

Having headed up the Medicine Hat Police Service’s Priority Crimes Team before joining the ALERT organized crime team, Fraser said he has seen all sorts of items stolen: food, electronics, clothes, even electric toothbrushes. “Anything that’s not locked down can get stolen. Honestly, if it’s not bolted down and they want it, it will go.”

And with larger organized crime groups getting in on the action, the scale of goods being stolen is ramping up as well.

“We’ve had files over the years, and even recently, where it’s not just theft from stores or small-time break-ins — it’s skid steers and vehicles being stolen and moved to different parts of the province,” Fraser said. “It’s any level of commodity, from shoplifting at Walmart to stealing a $70,000 truck attached to a Bobcat on a trailer.”

Dealers might keep the stolen property they receive, or they might try to sell it on social media platforms or to pawn shops. But Fraser says the second-hand shops in Medicine Hat have become much more proactive in recent years.

“Anything that’s not locked down can get stolen. Honestly, if it’s not bolted down and they want it, it will go.”

—Staff Sgt. Kelsey Fraser, ALERT Medicine Hat

“Ten years ago, we weren’t organized with local pawn shops in combating the resale of stolen goods. But since that time, we’ve become a coalition of sorts with our pawn shops and taken an organized approach to preventing and curbing the resale of stolen goods through pawn shops,” he said. “If we deem something stolen and they paid out on it, we take the property back. They don’t want to incur those losses either.”

And police have tried to reciprocate: “We could tell them that we just had a whole bunch of drills stolen; if you see one, be wary who you’re taking it from. It’s proactive communication to them,” Fraser said.

Meanwhile, Fraser said he has seen a concerted effort from community members to curb property theft. One of the most effective tools is the MHPS smartphone app, through which the service receives many tips every day.

“The good thing is that our community isn’t getting in the way or putting themselves in harm’s way trying to intervene,” Fraser said. “They’re keeping themselves safe, but they’re not just sitting on the information; they’re sharing it.”

As for how people can avoid having their property stolen, Fraser says an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“My personal advice has always been: If you don’t want to lose it, don’t leave it out,” he said. “That’s a really easy rule. I’m still amazed when I read files where people have their wallets or purses or electronics stolen from trucks that are unlocked. If you value it, so does somebody else who can’t afford to buy it, and they’re going to take it if given the opportunity.”

Protecting Kids Online | Internet Child Exploitation

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

FILE INTAKES

680

872

1,149

1,114

3,815

2,994

2,764

SUSPECTS CHARGED

22

16

34

37

109

81

125

CHARGES LAID

87

45

123

160

415

351

413

CHILDREN RESCUED

26

78

56

43

203

46

100

EXHIBITS SEIZED

335

368

545

476

1,724

1,243

1,845

TOTAL PHOTOS/VIDEOS

262,400

511,133

1,374,310

606,254

2,754,097

2,551,921

13,260,819

Stopping Human Trafficking | HUMAN TRAFFICKING & COUNTER EXPLOITATION

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

SUSPECTS CHARGED

13

10

7

4

34

30

76

CHARGES LAID

79

46

87

19

231

96

157

VICTIM INTERVENTIONS

30

29

17

37

113

28

22

Intelligence & Expertise | CISA / Training

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

INTELLIGENCE REPORTS

409

296

327

442

1,474

1,560

1,318

TRAINING COURSES

5

3

8

11

27

36

25

CANDIDATES TRAINED

321

56

135

350

862

933

638

Disrupt & Dismantle Organized Crime | Combined Special Forces Enforcement

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

SUSPECTS CHARGED

40

27

42

32

141

197

168

CHARGES LAID

176

156

237

231

800

1,088

820

FIREARMS SEIZED

105

53

26

48

232

102

126

EST. VALUE OF DRUGS SEIZED

$906,814

$553,851

$2,725,161

$1,148,337

$5,334,163

$10,898,269

$334,093,020

PROCEEDS OF CRIME SEIZED

$218,133

$52,970

$130,996

$230,195

$632,294

$1,432,847

$21,740,617

ANNUAL Regional ResultS

ARRESTS

CHARGES

FIREARMS

DRUGS

PROCEEDS

CALGARY

24

110

14

$937,422

$65,881

EDMONTON

17

131

45

$592,839

$272,446

FORT MCMURRAY

8

78

4

$352,942

$144,301

GRANDE PRAIRIE

7

17

13

$192,145

$31,855

LETHBRIDGE

7

29

44

$349,773

$51,245

LLOYDMINSTER

24

93

41

$164,134

$12,504

MEDICINE HAT

37

179

13

$293,108

$7,861

RED DEER

17

163

58

$2,451,800

$46,201

TOTALS

141

800

232

$5,334,163

$632,294

Organized Property Crimes | Auto Crimes

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

SUSPECTS CHARGED

1

1

2

1

10

CHARGES LAID

11

47

STOLEN VEHICLES

23

15

1

6

45

245

118

RECOVERED ASSETS

$1,432,000

$941,025

$108,000

$260,000

$2,741025

$8,420,500

$3,919,500

Firearms investigations | Firearms lab & Gang suPpression teams

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2023-24

2022-23

2021-22

FIREARMS EXAMINATIONS

349

351

243

235

1,178

EXHIBIT EXAMINATIONS

1,316

1,409

891

1,099

4,715

SERIAL NUMBER RESTORATIONS

31

34

19

24

108

IBIS SUBMISSIONS

343

421

1,334

304

2,402

GUN SEIZURES

1

14

15

SUSPECTS CHARGED

4

22

26

CHARGES LAID

41

144

185

Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) involves images and/or videos that depict the sexual abuse of minors – the majority of which involve prepubescent children. Often, CSAM involves explicit and/or extreme sexual assaults against the child victim (Cybertip.ca).

Learn more about Internet Child Exploitation and ALERT’s integrated teams combatting this issue.

Ghost Guns are illegal, privately manufactured firearms or lower receivers. These weapons are often made with 3D-printers, and undermine public safety due to their lack of licensing requirements, serialization and safety controls.

Learn more about Ghost Guns on ALERT’s dedicated Privately Manufactured Firearms info page