A rural crime spree continues to plague Westman, and four Shoal Lake businesses are the latest targets of roaming burglars.
Yellowhead RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Chabot said it’s believed that the same culprits may be responsible for all of the recent break-ins, both in his area and other parts of the province.
“That’s what we suspect,” Chabot said.
Four Shoal Lake businesses were broken into sometime between Saturday and Monday. Thieves made off with about $600 cash.
That follows eight break-ins in four communities, all within the same night, on Oct. 8-9.
That night, three Hamiota businesses were broken into, three others in Sandy Lake, one in Erickson and one in Miniota.
The intruders entered in a variety of ways — in some cases, windows were smashed or doors pried or kicked open. In total, an estimated $6,000 in cash was taken from the eight properties.
The businesses included food stores, hotels, auto shops and a post office.
“Every kind of business, basically,” Chabot said.
Chabot said a burglar or burglars were caught on video surveillance at one business. That footage supplied a clue as to why, in part, the culprits haven’t been caught yet.
“We know that they’re wearing gloves and ski masks or some type of face covering,” Chabot said. “The amount of evidence left at a scene is fairly minimal.”
Chabot acknowledged that RCMP have a wide territory to cover, and RCMP members aren’t present in every town, around the clock.
However, he said officers are on patrol and it’s just a matter time, and timing, before someone gets caught.
“Everyone’s number comes up eventually,” Chabot said.
RCMP Cpl. Miles Hiebert said there’s a perception that rural communities are more isolated and therefore criminals are less likely to get caught.
However, he said that likely doesn’t come into play in planning these types of crimes. They tend to be more crimes of opportunity, he said.
Meanwhile, the list of victim businesses continues to grow.
Since mid-September, there have been five Boissevain businesses broken into, four in Rivers and five in Souris. There were also break-ins in Treherne, St. Claude, Somerset, La Rivière, Holland and Notre Dame. Now, there’s the 12 in Chabot’s area.
The Brandon RCMP Forensic Identification Unit and Major Crime Unit assist with the investigation.
On Wednesday, Swan River Mounties announced that they made an arrest following a break and enter in that community, but it’s not believed to be related to the above series of burglaries.
Swan River RCMP were called to the break-in to H & R Block around 7 p.m. on Tuesday and found the main door broken. There had been some vandalism and theft that police declined to describe at this time.
They say neighbourhood inquiries and immediate patrols resulted in the arrest of a 31-year-old Swan River man.
As for the other crimes, RCMP ask anyone with information to supply a tip to their local RCMP detachment, or they can make a tip anonymously by dialing Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).
Tips can also be submitted online at manitobacrimestoppers.com. Or, text TIPMAN, plus your message, to CRIMES (274637).
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 18, 2012