This Stettler residence was the scene of a shooting earlier this month. The victim suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen and was airlifted to Calgary

This Stettler residence was the scene of a shooting earlier this month. The victim suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen and was airlifted to Calgary

Recent gunfire an ‘anomaly’ says detachment commander Shootings unusual, property theft not so much

With two shootings in four months, some residents of the Town of Stettler are beginning to feel nervous about the safety of the community.

A sentiment Sgt. Duncan Babchuk understands – but doesn’t himself share.

The detachment commander of the local RCMP is quick to note that in these two incidents – so far looking to be completely unrelated – the people in question were involved in the drug scene. The shootings weren’t random attacks, but targeted attacks.

In comparison, the shooting attack on a pedestrian three years ago after she refused to get into the vehicle of a stranger was random, and much more scary, Babchuk said. Even then, that incident was out of character for a community the sergeant calls “safe.” In the three-year-old incident, the shooter wasn’t from the community.

“I have an investment here,” Babchuk said. “I live here. I own a house here. My family’s here. I wouldn’t live here and have them live here if this wasn’t a safe town. Everything about Stettler’s good – good schools, good council and administrators, good community.”

Even good communities have underbellies, though, and Babchuk said he and his RCMP members are doing their best to keep tabs on Stettler’s seedy side.

He noted that Stettler is made up of hard-working people, people who, for the most part, are staying out of trouble so they can continue to work hard. Diversion programs from the courts often snag those making forays into naughty behaviour and divert them into programs that deal with mental or addictions issues.

For those who move into the community to sell illicit drugs, Babchuk has a message, but it’s not for the dealers, who aren’t listening. It’s for the hard-working people who end up living near those dealers.

“Keep calling us,” he said. “If you see suspicious behaviour, let us know.”

The only way police can make an arrest, he said, is if there’s an incident or there’s evidence of crime. When police can’t acquire that, the next best thing they can do is make it hard for dealers to do business.

“It’s tough for them to do business when police keep knocking on their door, responding to complaints,” Babchuk said.

Statistically, Stettler’s no better or worse than the average Alberta community, and Babchuk said the recent shootings were “unfortunate coincidences” and “an anomaly.”

Property crimes are probably the most persistent crimes in the community, but the underlying cause of most property crimes is an addiction of one sort or another.

“Eighty-five per cent of crime is drug related,” Babchuk said. “Break and enters, vehicle break-ins, public disturbance, mischief – it comes back to drugs.”

And not just illicit drugs, but legal ones like alcohol and tobacco.

“Someone robs a gas station by knife point, and what do they steal? Cigarettes,” he noted.

Victim recovering from serious injuries

The victim in the April 7 shooting is recovering from injuries that were, according to Babchuk, “more serious than originally believed.”

Around 1:30 p.m., police responded to a 911 call alleging an assault at a resident in northwest Stettler. While police searched the area for the assailant, they were contacted by Stettler Hospital about a man being treated for gunshot wounds.

The victim was eventually flown out by STARS to Calgary Foothills Hospital.

Three people, a 27-year old man, a 22-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman were arrested without incident, but were later released. Police sough the public’s assistance in finding a vehicle stolen from the residence, which was found in Red Deer on April 9.

Police continue to investigate, but are confident the shooting was targeted and that risk to the public is minimal.

Police seek assistance on weekend thefts

The RCMP are hoping the public may have information that will help them solve a string of thefts over the weekend.

Sometime during the weekend, an unknown person or persons entered the MANX Construction yard on 44 Ave. There, they siphoned off roughly 600 litres of diesel fuel from construction equipment. Police say suspects entered from the back of the yard with a dually truck. Estimated loss is $600.

Also on the weekend, a large amount of plywood was stolen from a construction yard on 46 Ave. Police believe the suspect or suspects used a tractor to remove 120 sheets of plywood, a loss of about $1,600.

The weekend thievery wasn’t done yet, with diesel particulate filters from three trucks on the Dodge Dealership yard being stolen. The filters are part of the exhaust systems on the trucks, and is a loss of nearly $7,500.

Anyone with information about these crimes or any others are asked to phone Stettler RCMP at 403-742-3382, or if wishing to remain anonymous, phone Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).