Edmonton police believe groups of teenagers are responsible for dozens of robberies, thefts and mischief calls at places throughout the LRT system, at various recreation centres and commercial properties in the city.
Investigators believe the groups, which usually include anywhere between four and 12 suspects, are behind more than 60 crimes reported predominantly in northeast and southwest Edmonton between July 31, 2017 and Jan. 23.
Several incidents, including robberies, shoplifting, thefts, disturbances and assaults, have been reported at the Belvedere, Southgate and Century Park LRT stations, various convenience and grocery stores, as well as the Clareview, Terwillegar and Saville recreation centres.
The suspects are believed to be anywhere between 13 and 18 years old, and police said they usually travel together in groups of four and 12 people.
Investigators believe the incidents are all crimes of opportunity, in which the suspects target people for expensive items such as cellphones, laptops and clothes.
With the assistance of ETS Peace Officers, police said they have already arrested and charged five teens believed to be responsible for several incidents. The five can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
In a statement, the city said it takes citizen safety seriously and works on several fronts to ensure public safety.
“City-owned building, facilities and properties are all designed and operated with safety of citizens in mind. Edmonton Transit Service uses a variety of methods to actively patrol the transit system, including the use of police beat officers, transit peace officers, and video or technology surveillance.
“At recreation centres, there is video surveillance, locker theft deterrent programs and users are encouraged to leave valuables at home.
“Safety is a shared responsibility. Citizens are encouraged to report suspicious activity to staff at city facilities, uniformed transit employees, community peace officers or to Edmonton Police Service (EPS).”
Police admit while it’s not always possible to prevent a personal robbery, there are some steps that can help minimize the risks:
- Pick safe routes to get to your destination
- Plan ahead, and let someone know where you are going and for how long
- If you are walking after dark, take routes that are well lit and are well populated
- If you’re using transit, stand or ride near others — do not isolate yourself
- If you’re driving, avoid parking in an isolated area. Park in a well-lit, highly-visible, high-traffic area
- Scan the surroundings as you walk or approach or leave your vehicle and transit. If possible, walk with another person
- If you’re carrying small personal electronics conceal it under your clothes. These are targets for would-be thieves who can easily sell or exchange the device for drugs.
- While it’s relaxing to listen to music on your device while travelling on transit, you may also make yourself vulnerable to a personal robbery from would-be thieves.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. You may need to give directions to a loved one or police
- Keep your keys ready when walking to your vehicle or home, so that you can get into your vehicle or home promptly
- Lock the doors of your vehicle while you are inside. Don’t open your doors or roll down your windows if an unknown person approaches to ask you something
- Keep your vehicle in good working condition, especially in winter months, to reduce the chance of breaking down and stopping
- Call out for help in an emergency, and carry a cellphone with you
- Report a personal robbery, or any suspicious persons, vehicles, or activities to police as soon as possible
Anyone with information about this series of crimes or the youths involved are asked to contact police at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a cellphone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.