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Oilpatch crime on the rise, says security expert

'It's desperate times and desperate people'

By Edmonton AM, CBC News Posted: Sep 15, 2015 11:46 AM MT Last Updated: Sep 15, 2015 11:46 AM MT

Equipment thefts and vandalism on oilsands sites in northern Alberta are growing as more jobs continue to be cut in the oil and gas sector, says one security expert.

Joden Dorner is the security operations manager for Prospector Energy Services, a security firm based near Grande Prairie, Alta.

He has worked in the industry for more than 20 years, but said he's never seen anything like the recent spate of crimes.

"Everything has been up," he said. "We've been dealing with the theft of diesel, to an uprise in vandalism. Now we're looking at bigger things just as of late — equipment theft.

"It's just a constant increase since probably mid-last winter."

The "new normal," Dorner said, is for people to steal a vehicle, drive it around for a few days, take what they can, then dump it.

Dorner doesn't think it's a coincidence that the spike in thefts is happening just as the full impact of oil industry job losses is beginning to hit the city.

At least 35,000 oil and gas workers have lost their jobs in Alberta since January.

"You've got a workforce that's been used to high level of pay for so long, and if you lost a job you had another one the next day. That's just not there anymore," he said.

"It's desperate times and desperate people."

Because of that desperation, Dorner is worried about what might happen if an unwitting witness stumbles across a crime in progress — particularly on an isolated job site where few others are around.

"These remote sites are a prime target for guys just driving around, usually in a stolen vehicle. Pull in, no lights on, start looting."

"It's definitely a possibility that someone could get beat up."

In response to the thefts, oil and gas companies are adding security measures and enlisting help from companies such as Dorner's. He said he has been working closely with local RCMP and fish and wildlife officers to prevent and investigate thefts.

CBC News reached out to officials at the Petroleum Services Association for comment, but calls were not returned.

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