There has been a startling number of incidents of vandalism in and around Golden over the past few months. From election signs, to the golf course, to the wall at Down Memory Lanes bowling alley that became an art project for the Golden Interact Club. The string of vandalism stretched south over the Thanksgiving weekend, affecting one local landowner and a contractor.
Unfortunately, Tim Weygandt is no stranger to acts such as these. The isolated nature of rural properties like his makes them particularly vulnerable to crime.
A year ago he experienced a break in at his home 10 minutes south of Golden. The perpetrator(s) stole televisions, a stereo and an indoor jet pump among other items while Weygandt was away out of town.
According to him, many of his neighbours have complained of incidents of petty theft in recent years, from fuel to tools.
“Anything that can be stolen,” Weygandt said.
Sometime in the evening of Oct. 11, the day before Thanksgiving, what’s believed to be multiple perpetrators passed a closed gate and rode ATVs onto Weygandt’s property and into his gravel pit. The individuals climbed into a pair of loaders, started them up and decimated a wooded area of about half an acre on Weygandt’s land.
The loaders belong to the Gottler Bros., a local excavating and contractor service.
“All of the equipment, doesn’t matter if it’s John Deere, Caterpillar…they’ve all got the same key for each one. Those keys are easy to obtain,” Randy Gottler said.
“When we discovered the machines it looked they’d been all over the (proerty)…both machines were parked nose to nose with their buckets in the air trying to take the cabs off either one of them.”
Gottler estimates that approximately $4,000 worth of damage was done to his machines, which are each valued at $350,000.
“They bent some fenders on the machines. They took all of the oil caps off and opened up all the doors. It looked to me like they were going to pour something down the engine…they kicked the windows in on my crushing unit out there and got inside there.
“The way they were running them around in the bush, that’s long-term damage that’ll come up down the road.”
Track marks were later discovered on a Mininstry of Transportation gravel pit adjacent to Weygandt’s property, indicating that the suspects may have gone for a joy ride.
“The nature of the whole thing implies that it was a joy ride, so that implies somebody less mature. I don’t mean to single out young people or what have you, but it was a joy ride. Just malicious damage,” said Weygandt.
According to Cst. Spencer Lainchbury at the Golden-Field RCMP, police don’t have any leads at the moment and are asking anyone with any information to come forward and contact the RCMP or Crimestoppers.
Because both his and the MoT’s gravel pit aren’t far removed from Highway 95, but enough so that they can’t be seen from the road, Weygandt believes these are ideal locations for what he calls “pit parties”, like the one that appears to have occurred over Thanksgiving. The closed and locked chain gate appears to have offered little in the way of deterrence for the perpetrators and Weygandt said he plans to install a series of trail cameras around his property. Cst. Lainchbury said that some rural residents have begun setting up cameras around their property, which can assist police in identifying suspects.
As for what he’d like to see done in the future, Weygandt stressed that a collaborative effort among neighbours is the key to combatting petty crime. He says that he and his neighbours have a good relationship for the most part and that they keep an eye out for each other when they can, but that more can always be done.
“I would like to see all people in the valley get to know their neighbours…communicate, trade phone numbers, establish a rapport…rather than just being alone out there,” Weygandt said, citing a neighbourhood watch program taht worked well while he was living in Vernon.
“In my situation, there’s (nothing) for help other than my neighbours.”