It is random coincidence three police vehicles have been stolen this summer in Manitoba, despite at least a decade of zero reported cruiser thefts, the Winnipeg Police Service says.
The city police force had two of its cruisers stolen within the past three weeks. On Tuesday morning, the department recovered a third marked vehicle that was stolen from the Manitoba First Nations Police Service and was being driven throughout Winnipeg.
All of the stolen police vehicles have been found. In the two Winnipeg cases, they were stolen while officers were busy dealing with other suspects in stolen-vehicle investigations.
Before this summer, the WPS hadn’t had one of its vehicles stolen in 10 years or more, spokesman Const. Rob Carver said Tuesday. But the service isn’t raising alarm over it.
"If it happens five more times in the rest of 2019, we’d have an issue," Carver said. The WPS will consider changes to "policy and systems," in light of the thefts, Carver said, but he said there may not be much it can do policy-wise in high-pressure situations.
"We could look at a change in policy where we ask people to delay getting out of the car, make sure the engine is shut off and the key removed... or we could make sure that the person whose life is in jeopardy right in front of us is safe," he said. "Policy is always going to err on making sure people are safe. Are there systems we can use? Probably. What’s the cost? What’s the feasibility of it? Those are things we’ll have to be looking at."
In the first case, around 2:30 a.m. on June 27, a WPS vehicle was illegally taken after officers tracked down a suspect in a stolen vehicle at a gas bar near Headingley. It looked like the suspects were trying to car-jack another vehicle, officers reported, and the situation escalated.
Carver said the officers left their car running because they feared for the safety of other people in the area.
A second WPS cruiser was stolen around 9 p.m. Monday, after a chaotic chase in Elmwood.
Officers tracking a stolen vehicle near Munroe Avenue and Watt Street fired a gun at a suspect after he allegedly drove at them and rammed their cruiser. No one was shot and the stolen vehicle kept driving until it crashed into a building on Watt at Larsen Avenue.
While police were arresting the suspect — using a Taser to get him under control — a second suspect snuck away and stole a cruiser. Officers found it abandoned a few minutes later, but didn’t find the second suspect, who had fled.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing, police said.
It’s unclear when and where the Manitoba First Nations Police vehicle was stolen, but WPS worked with RCMP and the MFNP to track it down around 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, near the West Perimeter Highway and Roblin Boulevard.
Police used a tire-deflation device, commonly known as a stop stick, to stop it around 8 a.m. at Lagimodière Boulevard and Dawson Road. One man was arrested.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.