The Wembley public works shop and fire department lost several valuable pieces of equipment during three break-ins last week.
The first was last Tuesday at the public works building, said Noreen Zhang, town chief administrative officer.
The Wembley firehall was broken into early last Thursday morning and the public works shop for a second time Friday, said fire chief Matthew Smith.
“It’s alarming that someone would break into a public service building like (the hall), also knowing we recently had another break-and-enter at another town facility,” Smith said.
“It’s disheartening for a small municipality - anything like this costs the ratepayers in the long run,” Zhang said.
“There’s definitely a good cause to increase public awareness of this kind of activity,” Smith added.
“We want to encourage people to look out for their neighbours.”
Zhang said the public works crew had used the truck stolen in the first break-in for hauling tools and smaller jobs.
Due to a lack of surveillance evidence it’s uncertain if the theft was related to the later break-ins, she said.
The break-in at the firehall was witnessed by a resident walking her dog at approximately 4:45 a.m. last Thursday, Smith said.
The resident observed a masked man acting suspiciously, saw a smashed window and immediately contacted 911, Smith said.
He said the department also has security footage and retrieved images of the intruder which it shared with media and the public at large.
“Our cameras show around the building, so you can see the individual walk from the back alley to around the firehall, look through the windows, and smash the reinforced security glass with a little tool,” Smith said.
Over the next four minutes the suspect went through lockers and the office and stole two computers before fleeing, Smith said.
One of the computers is used for incident reports and medical reports but is password-protected, he said.
The second is used for communications, but Smith said there won’t be an immediate impact to the department’s communications system.
The department has insurance, but the loss is still a blow and “deductibles aren’t cheap,” he said.
He said he considers the suspect’s Polaris jacket “very distinguishable” and is hoping someone will recognize it.
Based on the footage, Smith also estimated the suspect is between 177 and 189 centimetres tall.
Smith said the Polaris jacket-wearing suspect from the firehall was observed in the second public works break-in.
Zhang said on Friday the suspect stole a secured key box from public works.
The keys were used for all equipment in the yard and all locks have since been changed, she said.
Zhang said as the investigation is ongoing there’s no cost estimate on the losses yet.
There’ve been no service disruptions and public works has kept up snow removal, she added.
Sgt. Ash Browne, Beaverlodge detachment commander, couldn’t be reached for comment on whether the break-ins could be related to other firehall break-ins last year.
The new La Glace firehall was targeted in June and the Sexsmith and Bezanson halls saw break-ins last March.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News