Manitoba takes stock of rural crime

On the Manitoba Crime Stoppers site, there’s a long list of items stolen from rural properties and businesses.

Snowmobiles, ATVs, dirt bikes and tools are common items on the list. But in March, thieves stole a Kubota tractor and solar batteries from a property in Manitoba’s Interlake region.

Many farmers and landowners believe crime and vandalism are worse than ever in the province.

“There may be other areas where it is the same as it used to be, but in our area it has increased,” said Bill Campbell, Keystone Agricultural Producers president, who farms near Minto, Man.

“The rural areas around some of the larger centres are really noticing an increase (in crime).”

The province is considering changes to the Petty Trespass Act and the Occupiers Liability Act to discourage crime and clarify what a landowner can do when someone is on their property.

Before any changes are made, the province wants feedback from rural landowners about theft, vandalism and potential solutions. The government has set up an online questionnaire, which can be found at engagemb.ca.

“We want to hear from people in rural, northern and remote areas, as well as other Manitobans, about their experiences with crime, so we can ensure the justice system responds to their needs,” said Justice Minister Cliff Cullen in late August.

The survey is a positive step because something needs to be done, Campbell said.

In his part of Manitoba, south of Brandon, he’s seeing more suspicious vehicles on the road and criminals are stealing metal from farmyards and municipal property.

“I’ve been in contact with the person who runs the (local) nuisance ground and there are batteries disappearing,” Campbell said in a phone interview while sitting in the cab of his combine.

“There’s wire and scrap metal disappearing, out of the nuisance ground.”

To combat metal theft, the province is considering ways to crack down on the sale of stolen metal.

Larger fines and more severe penalties will deter a portion of criminals. But there’s another group who will continue to steal, regardless of the legal consequences.

Farmers and rural residents also need to take proactive steps to protect their property and belongings.

“When we discover a vandalism or theft and when we call the police they’re not always going be able to respond,” Campbell said.

“So, what do you do? How do you itemize things? And (maybe) we need to have pictures of what we have and keep that as an inventory…. Then the police are better able to manage recovery, if it ends up in pawn shops or in the street.”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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