Getting to know your neighbours and keeping them informed about your plans can help keep your farm safe.
A “keen-eyed citizen” was immediately suspicious after seeing grain being loaded from bins on a neighbour’s farm near Josephburg, northeast of Edmonton, in early December. The neighbour knew the farmer was away and so called the Strathcona County RCMP.
“It was something that was quite surprising,” said Const. Allison Gyonyor. “We had a neighbour contact us in regards to some grain that was being removed from a property.”
An investigation by the RCMP property crimes unit found that a grain company had been contacted via “online and text communication” by a man purporting to be the seller.
“He didn’t have authorization to use that property, nor to sell it, but he made a contract and went to sell it to someone,” said Gyonyor. “On the other side of things, they thought it was legitimate. They purchased it and started to pick it up, and that’s when the neighbour realized what was going on.”
Earlier this month, Bryce Allan Smith, 32 and a resident of Fort Saskatchewan, was charged with one count of trafficking stolen property over $5,000.
“This is an unusual crime. It’s not common that we charge someone in trafficking,” said Gyonyor.
This type of crime has happened before, but it is unusual, said Rémi Gosselin, manager of corporate information services at the Canadian Grain Commission.
But the changing nature of farming means it is more common for someone other than the farmer — either a contract trucker or a grain company — to be picking up grain.
“More and more producers are having truckers go to a grain elevator on their own behalf,” said Gosselin. “It is more infrequent for producers to deliver their own grain. It is quite plausible that an elevator would have no idea about the origins of grain.”
But not anyone would attempt a crime like this, he added.
“You would have to have knowledge of how the grain business functions,” he said. “If someone is stealing grain, they would need to know how farms operate.”
The incident is a reminder for farmers to be aware of what is happening in their “neighbourhood” and the benefits of being in touch with neighbours, said Gyonyor.
“We just recommend to people that they talk to their neighbours, get to know their neighbours,” she said. “Let your neighbours know you are going away on holidays. Keep an eye out for each other.”
And if you do see something unusual, don’t hesitate to call police, she said.
There are also security measures that producers can take, said Gosselin, such as installing security cameras in their yards and turning off the electrical unloading systems to their bins. As well, he said, companies such as Cropgard Security Inc., sell paper flakes with a unique number printed on each tiny piece of paper. Handfuls of the paper flakes are thrown in the auger when grain is being loaded in the bin with the number being an identifier should the grain be stolen.