A rash of thefts in Sea to Sky, including 10 vehicles stolen in the last two weeks, may be the work of a group of thieves who may be involved in the latest Benchlands incident where a condo hotel employee was sprayed with bear spray after interrupting a theft in progress.
The RCMP could not confirm that there is a group of thieves, but say there is a chance that many of the incidents reported in recent weeks are related. A woman from Squamish who is known to police has been arrested and charged in one car theft and chase, but RCMP are still investigating possible connections between all the cases reported in the region.
Most recently, on Friday Jan. 16, RCMP gave chase to a 1992 Acura that was stolen from Government Road in Squamish. The suspect fled north, and the Squamish RCMP backed off their chase for public safety reasons, and contacted the Whistler RCMP to set up a roadblock with spike strips.
The highway was closed southbound while northbound traffic was allowed to get through.
After the car didn't turn up, the police determined that the car had turned off the highway. They later discovered the abandoned vehicle stuck inside the entrance to the Rubble Creek trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park. A dog team was brought up from North Vancouver, and after two hours the RCMP apprehended Dawn Ashley Robson, 22, who was charged with theft over $5,000, dangerous operation of a motor vehicles, flight from police, prohibited driving and possession of a controlled substance. Robson, a Squamish resident, was known to Squamish RCMP.
The RCMP are still investigating but say the incident may be related to a rash of other vehicle and property thefts in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton areas.
· Between Jan. 8 and 10 a navy blue Toyota Tacoma with a burgundy cab was taken from the upper parking lot of Tyrol Lodge on Alta Lake Road, licence plate 5355EY. Left in its place was a 1997 Geo Tracker that was reported stolen on Jan. 8 from the underground lot at Franz's Trail.
· On Jan. 10 a white Ford F350 with a red and black Ski-Doo was stolen from a parking area near the Hurley Forest Service Road, licence plate 3637KS.
· On Jan. 11 a 1995 light blue Toyota Tacoma was stolen from Eva Lake Road in Whistler, licence plate AA4804.
· On Jan. 12 a year 2000, red Ford F350 was stolen from the same parking area at the Hurley as the previous theft, licence plate 639IGC.
· On Jan. 12, a 1992 green Toyota Camry was stolen in the late evening from Easy Street in Whistler, licence plate 925JXR.
· On the evening of Jan. 13 a black 1990 Toyota Forerunner was stolen from the day skier lots, licence plate 773HXK.
· On the evening of Jan. 13 or morning of Jan. 14 a grey 1993 Mazda 626 was taken from Alpha Lake Road, licence plate 055JSX.
· On Jan. 19 a 2008 Mazda 5 was stolen from in front of the liquor store on Pemberton Avenue in Squamish, licence plate HEA146.
As well, thieves stole a trailer from the Squamish Airport on Jan. 16 that was full of helicopter parts, and has the Black Tusk Helicopters logo on the side. The trailer is white and 15-feet long, with a plate number of 19563Y. According to the RCMP the parts are particular to Black Tusk's helicopters and have no commercial resale value. A reward is currently being considered.
To date, only the one Acura involved in the police chase has been recovered.
While cars are occasionally stolen in Sea to Sky, Sergeant Stephen Wright of the Whistler RCMP says the number of thefts is very unusual. The majority of stolen vehicles did not have keys in the car, and he believes that the thieves have dummy keys that they are using to start vehicles. The best protection, he said, are anti-theft devices that lock to the steering wheel.
"They're relatively cheap, they're effective, and they can even lower your insurance," he said. "Vehicles are being stolen without keys, so this is a good deterrent."
The RCMP are also investigating whether there is a connection between the stolen vehicles and a rash of other thefts and incidents.
The most serious incident occurred on Jan. 11 when an employee of the Marriott-Residence Inn was working in the underground parking area and entered the storage room. He was surprised by a male, who screamed and sprayed him in the face with bear spray before fleeing in a black truck. The employee was treated at the Whistler Health Care Centre and released.
"It's important for staff to be diligent, and to be aware of the possibility of being sprayed," said Wright. "It's an excruciating sensation, and any attack like this is of special concern for us."
The suspect is described as a white male, roughly five-foot-11 and 85 kilograms (187 pounds). He had either short hair or was balding, and was wearing a hat.
He also bears a resemblance to police photos that were released after break-ins at the Woodrun Lodge on Nov. 17 and Jan. 5.
The same individual or group may also responsible for the theft of an ATM machine from the Glacier Lodge, sometime between 2 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 17.
The RCMP are asking anyone with information on any of these incidents to call the detachment at 604-932-3044, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.