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As Alberta’s Economy Goes Down the Shitter, Bumbling Crime Schemes Are Going Up

Criminal masterminds these good ole boys ain't.
The moment you realize you are on camera. Photo via RCMP

It was essentially a scene from the Trailer Park Boys.

On Sunday, five men stole a tractor and used it to smash down a wall in one of the only banks in Lamont, a small Alberta town north of Edmonton. Then one of the men—presumably the Corey or Trevor of this particular group—got the tractor stuck in the building.

The men were on scene for over half an hour trying to get the tractor unstuck before giving up and taking off before the RCMP showed up.


Their big dirty had failed.

Crimes like these aren't merely one-offs in Alberta. Take for example the bumbling fools who decided to steal an (actually empty) ATM from a casino in Calgary, providing us with some of the greatest CCTV footage in Albertan history.

For best results play the Benny Hill theme alongside the video.

Alberta, formerly Canada's Texas, is quickly becoming Canada's Florida. As the oil bust increasingly results in lost jobs, declining provincial revenues, and Atlantic Canadians fleeing home, weird crime seems to be on the up.

ATM thefts have been on the rise for a while and are becoming almost regular with over forty ATM related calls going to police since late 2015. The cost of these crimes have been high to many local business owners as the damage caused almost always eclipses the money stolen from the machines.

Alberta's ATM Bandits have hit Warburg, Alberta Beach, Thorsby, Lamont, Grande Prairie, Slave Lake, Onoway, Leduc, and more.

Frankly, the ATM snatchers aren't the only ones going strong, as crime, in general, has been surging in the province during the economic slowdown. In 2015, Edmonton saw a violent crime increase of 12 percent and a property crime increase of 18 percent.

In October of 2015, Rod Knecht, Edmonton's chief of police, caused quite the stir when he correlated the rise of crime in his city with the lack of work in the oilfield.

"Our observation of crime metrics and the increase in calls for service in Edmonton during the current economic downturn parallels the drop in the price of oil," Knecht said. "This is not unique to Edmonton as I talk to my policing colleagues across Canada.


"Our front-line police officers have told me about their own observations of individuals and families that have been impacted by unemployment. The end result is desperation, and ultimately criminal activity."

This caused Edmonton's mayor Don Iveson to say that his city was policing "northern Alberta's problem children."

The statements caused a wee bit of a feud between Alberta's capital and northern Alberta. Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (read as Fort McMurray), was riled up by the implication that oil workers were turning to crime and challenged the statement and she wasn't alone in her outrage.

To respond to this the Edmonton police released statistics to back up their claims.

John Manzo, an associate professor in Sociology at the University of Calgary, says it's important to wait for all of the data to come in before coming to conclusions.

"I would say there's unquestionably a correlation that the police can see as it's happening, as opposed to (criminologists) who have to wait for statistical gathering agencies to catch up, so most of this is anecdotal evidence but it's coming from police officers," Manzo told VICE.

"We are seeing (a rise) in Calgary of ATM thefts, garage break-ins, things stolen off people's porches. Generally an increase in certain types of property crime."

What you doing there, eh? Photo via RCMP

Manzo warns that it's important not to view this as a one topic issue as the crime spike is a complex problem with many factors. The executive director of the The John Howard Society of Alberta, Chris Hay, says there are many factors at work that could be driving the increase, most importantly demographic shifts. Hay says crime statistics are "at best suspect" and can be influenced by a number of outside variables.


"When people lose their jobs they go to food banks, they turn to welfare, they don't start robbing people at gas stations," said Hay. "I would be careful about making comments because you're really looking at your public and saying, well. you have no moral centre and have nothing regulating you."

"When we have economic downturn the population doesn't go crazy. Law-abiding people in good times will be law-abiding, and law-abiding people in bad times will be law-abiding."

"It doesn't take rocket appliances to realize that all you have to do it take a chain, hook it up to a truck and yank the fucking bank machine out of the store."

But let's get back to ATM snatching.

The tried and true method of snatching an ATM seems to be pulling up to a small bank, gas station, or payday loan centre and attaching a rope/chain to the ATM. Then you take that rope/chain, hook it up to the back of a pickup truck and put the pedal to the goddamn metal, letting that sucker drift and spark behind you. Trailer Park Boyspopularized it and it's not like Alberta has a monopoly on it.

But Albertans are a wily bunch who tend to put their own unique spin on things.

In one brazen ATM heist in Thorsby, a central Albertan town, a man stole a garbage truck and decided the best use of his time would be to drive it through the wall of a Bank of Montreal. Security footage shows the garbage truck racing down a road with its treasure skipping off the pavement behind it like the world's worst wedding vehicle.

In another, a front-end loader was stolen (there may be a trend here) and driven smack dab into an RBC making a hole big enough for people to snag an ATM. The list goes on, and on, and on.

As it sits right now, we can only hope that the ATM bandits will be soon caught and order will be restored to Alberta.

In the meantime, though, dudes pulling cash machines out of buildings with their trucks, or tractors, is just 'the fuckin' way she goes.'

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.