By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Bashaw Star
After recently returning to the region and taking over Bashaw Meats and Sausage, the Hunker family has already been a victim of crime.
The couple’s family camper-trailer, which had been parked behind the meat shop, was stolen on Aug. 25. Security video posted to the shop’s social media accounts shows that the suspects cut off the hitch lock, hooked up, and drove away.
Fortunately, the trailer was insured.
“It’s replaceable, that’s what we’re thankful for,” said Dakota Hunker, who became the new co-owner of the local business with her husband Bobby at the end of June.
The RCMP says although thefts of camper-trailers have gone down in recent years, the Hunkers are certainly not alone as victims of theft in central Alberta.
According to statistics from the Central Alberta RCMP, the theft of ‘other’ motor vehicles, which campers are classified under, has seen a drop over the last five years, with 738 stolen in 2016, and 478 stolen in 2020, the last year for which statistics are available.
However, RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Tammy Keibel cautions that the numbers may not be “truly reflective” of trailer thefts due to how the crimes are scored by the investigating RCMP members.
“Some may be classified as theft over $5,000, or theft under $5,000 and there would be no way to know unless each file was reviewed individually,” said Keibel.
“The issue with that is that there were about 14,000 thefts over/under $5,000 files in the central Alberta district alone in 2020.”
According to Sgt. John Pike, the commanding officer of the Coronation RCMP detachment, part of the issue with trailer thefts is that often they are “stolen from properties where (the owners) don’t realize they are stolen,” such as rural storage sites.
Because anyone in Alberta can fill out a bill of sale with very minimal information, it is then possible for an unsuspecting buyer to take the bill of sale and pertinent insurance information and register the trailer.
Some of the more complicated criminals will even replace the vehicle identification numbers on the vehicles or trailers, ensuring that a cursory inspection will not flag in a search of the Canadian Police Information Centre database, even if reported stolen.
Another issue, according to Sgt. Pike, is that most trailers have permanent licence plates.
If a trailer is re-registered to a new owner before the trailer is reported stolen because the trailers have permanent plates, the new owner will be left unaware, unless of course he happens to be pulled over for whatever reason. If they are never pulled over, the owner could remain unaware that they possess stolen property, until, of course, they go to sell it.
“You may not know it’s stolen,” said Pike.
“It may not have even been reported as stolen.”
In a situation where a stolen vehicle or trailer is discovered by the RCMP, the vehicle would be seized, and the person would be out the money paid for the vehicle, if not charged with possession of stolen property, depending on the situation.
Pike cautions anyone buying a vehicle via private sale to do some research. The Canadian Police Information Centre website is available at no charge. On it, you can enter the vehicle identification number of a vehicle or trailer, and it will tell you immediately if the vehicle has been reported stolen.
“There is a pretty good market in solen vehicles,” said Pike.
“And they usually stay within the same province.”
As for the Hunkers, because they fortunately had insurance on their property, they must now through the process to get the trailer replaced for next year’s camping season.