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Alberta crime watch group says it never encourages vigilante justice

A young boy and girl play with homemade stocks as people gather in support of Edouard Maurice outside court in Okotoks, Alta., Friday, March 9, 2018.
A young boy and girl play with homemade stocks as people gather in support of Edouard Maurice outside court in Okotoks, Alta., Friday, March 9, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The case of a southern Alberta farmer accused of shooting a trespasser on his property has highlighted the problem of rural crime in Alberta.

Charges were dropped in the case Friday.

LISTEN BELOW: President of the Alberta Rural Crime Watch, Cor DeWit speaks with Peter Watts

On Saturday, Cor DeWit, president of the Alberta Rural Crime Watch, told the Alberta Morning News rural crime isn’t new in Alberta and part of the issue is the agricultural nature of the province.

“The distances involved and the situation on farms where they don’t have locks on every building, they have equipment standing out all over the place,” said DeWit. “You’ve got to have a different mindset I guess going forward.”

He encourages property owners to use preventative security measures.

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Edouard Maurice, 33, was charged after confronting two people going through his vehicles in February. Shots were fired and one of the trespassers was wounded.

The Crown withdrew the charges citing information from a firearms expert which meant there wasn’t a reasonable chance of a conviction.

READ MORE: Applause in courtroom as charges dropped against Okotoks property owner in rural shooting

DeWit understands that property owners can get frustrated and want to take matters into their own hands if someone is on their property who shouldn’t be, but he never encourages vigilante justice.

“They joke and they ask `Can I take out a gun?’ and we always say ‘No, do not do that.’

“If something would happen that you would take a shot at somebody or someone that’s invading your farm or your house and it’s a tragic result, then you have to go through that trauma of the court case. And your family would have to go through the expense of lawyers and everything. I don’t know if that’s worth it.

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“Do not leave equipment in your vehicles in the evening, like your tools, your generator, compressor, stuff like that. Lock up your vehicles, lock up your tool sheds. If you don’t want to carry keys around, put on combination locks. They have industrial combination locks you can put on all your buildings.”

DeWit says more rural property owners are increasing their security, by putting up fences and gates and putting equipment away when they’re done for the day.

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