Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Removing ankle bracelets backfires against car thieves

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TWO of Winnipeg's worst car thieves thought they'd pulled a fast one by cutting off their electronic ankle bracelets and tossing them from the window of a speeding, stolen car.

Turns out the joke was on them -- one of the devices somehow flew into the backseat, without their knowledge, providing police a direct link to their location.

"If you even so much as bend one of these bracelets the wrong way, an alert will send," Crown attorney Liz Laite told court Thursday of the December 2009 incident. "In this case, the police knew these two were together, and exactly where they were."

Members of the stolen auto unit were able to communicate with the monitoring company, based out of Atlanta, and captured the pair after a dangerous, high-speed chase ended with plenty of damage but no injuries in Elmwood.

The 18-year-old passenger of the stolen Ford Fusion pleaded guilty Thursday to several charges stemming from his role in the incident and was given a two-year prison sentence under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers.

The Free Press is not publishing his name in order to include details about his extensive criminal past as a youth, which would otherwise be protected by law. This incident is his first adult conviction.

"He is a danger to society. The public has to be protected from him," said Laite. "You hope at some point the light will go on for him and he will realize this is ridiculous. Otherwise he's going to end up doing a life sentence on the installment plan."

The young man has numerous car theft convictions as a teen and is a Level 4 offender, which is the most serious designation given by police. He is a friend of three infamous Winnipeg brothers, who have racked up hundreds of convictions over the years and are deemed among the "worst car thieves in Canada," said Laite.

In fact, the 17-year-old brother was allegedly behind the wheel of the Fusion and remains before the courts. Laite said they will be seeking an adult sentence against him if convicted. His older brother is now an adult and serving time at Stony Mountain Institution, while his younger brother has become a regular visitor to the Manitoba Youth Centre.

The man, and the alleged driver of the vehicle, began their most recent crime spree by stealing an SUV. They went to a residential neighbourhood and broke into three empty homes. During the final break-in, the pair drove away with the victim's Fusion.

They took the car for a spin and slashed their ankle bracelets while in motion, said Laite. Police were alerted and tracked the vehicle to Kenaston Boulevard, where a brief chase ensued. Officers had to call it off when speeds reached 100 km/h, said Laite.

Police tracked the vehicle again in the area of North Kildonan. The driver was eventually boxed in by several police cars on Chalmers Avenue.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2010 A3

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