On Thursday night, Aug. 6, St. Marys-area mink rancher Jamie Rankin was on the way to his parents’ home when he heard a roaring sound appearing to come from the fields behind the family farm. Still on high alert following last month’s break-in, he went to inspect the noise but, finding nothing unusual, began to head home. It was on his trip back into St. Marys, along Perth Road 120 by the St. Marys Golf and Country Club, he discovered an abandoned ATV with cornstalks hanging out the bottom of it. Something was amiss, so he called his father Kirk.
“As soon as he told me where it was, I ripped over there, saw it, and called the cops because I knew something was up,” Kirk said. “If it had been a breakdown, I’m sure the driver would have pushed it over to the side of the road. They left this one right in the middle of it.”
Perth County OPP media relations officer Kees Wijnands said the ATV was reported stolen from an address on Road 125, neighbours of the Rankins.
“ATVs are a hot commodity,” Wijnands said. “They’re relatively easy to steal, to hot-wire, to get going. Especially in the rural area where we live, it’s a really common thing.”
Rankin said he later learned the four-wheeler had been stored in a building toward the back of his neighbour’s property where he had been using it to spray weeds. “How these guys happened to see it and decided to steal it, I don’t know,” he said.
Wijnands said several suspects were involved in the crime, adding “at this point we’re looking for another suspect’s vehicle that may have been in the area – it may be a small red sedan.”
He confirmed it was an active investigation.
According to Wijnands, farmers or rural ATV owners often either store their machine’s keys in plain sight near the vehicle, or else leave the keys right in the ignition. “I’m not faulting them for that,” he said. “But the bad guys know that too, and that’s the problem. That’s what they’re looking for. So, unfortunately, a lot of these machines get chopped up into pieces and the parts are sometimes actually worth a lot more than the stolen machine.
“We investigate quite a few of them,” he said. “When we do search warrants we often end up with a number of machines.”
He encouraged people to be more vigilant in terms of their machines, to “make sure everything is done to try and prevent people from easily taking them.”