It’s a Prairie version of the classic Hollywood chase — a thief who tried to escape in a stolen tractor pursued by a RCMP officer on a borrowed snowmobile.
Blackfalds RCMP responded to a break-and-enter complaint at a rural address on Highway 595 east of Red Deer on the afternoon of April 2. The thief had pilfered firearms, household items and jewellery from the residence, before proceeding to another residence about three miles away, where he stole a John Deere 6400 tractor with a front-end bucket.
“One person was on a bit of a mini crime spree,” said Corporal Barry Larocque of the Blackfalds RCMP detachment.
The tractor’s owner watched as his tractor took off across the fields and called the RCMP. Officers were working in the area, and had three vehicles nearby.
They began driving up township and range roads, and one officer spotted the tractor on secondary roads near Township Road 374 and Range Road 250.
Fortunately, a recreational snowmobiler drove by, and the police officer caught a ride with him. The two men pursued the tractor as it crashed through fences and stands of trees, damaging multiple fields in the process.
But it was anything but a high-speed chase.
“It was crawling,” said Larocque. “We don’t have any speed estimates, but the tractor wasn’t in road gear or anything like that.”
At about 6:45 p.m., the thief attempted to evade the RCMP by driving the tractor up a hill, but stalled. When he attempted to back the tractor down the hill, he lost control and rolled. The thief was uninjured, and was taken into custody. The tractor suffered extensive damage, but still ran.
The RCMP didn’t know the two thefts were associated with each other until they found the stolen firearms, jewellery and household goods from the first residence in the cab of the tractor.
Jesse Cecka, 25 and of no fixed address, has been charged with breaking and entering, theft, and theft over $5,000.
It was obvious to the RCMP that the thief had no prior experience with his escape vehicle of choice.
“He’s more of a city person than a country person,” said Larocque.
Rural residents can prevent their own version of COPS by securing and locking their vehicles, and removing keys from the ignition.
“I don’t know if the keys were in there or not, but taking the extra time to secure one’s property and vehicles in the rural setting is becoming more prominent,” said Larocque.
In the previous two weeks, the Blackfalds RCMP members have dealt with several vehicle thefts from rural properties. In many of these cases, the keys were left in the vehicle.
“I know about this, because I grew up in Saskatchewan,” said Larocque. “But it’s a different time now, so you have to be a little more diligent and get those keys out of the ignition.”