Four people charged with more than 100 regional thefts

Vehicle break-ins in the West Shore have dropped sharply in the wake of a large property crime bust that resulted in four arrests and the recovery of about $75,000 in stolen items, police say.

West Shore RCMP recorded 43 theft-from-vehicle incidents in the past month, compared with 128 in the previous four weeks.

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The decline started after the regional crime unit completed the largest case in its four-year existence, pursuing more than 100 charges for thefts committed primarily in the West Shore.

Two men have been arrested in connection with the thefts, while two women face charges of possession of stolen property.

Staff Sgt. Gary Schenk, head of the regional crime unit, said the number of charges and size of the investigation are unprecedented for his unit.

Based on the large amount of stolen property recovered, theft was a daily activity for the people who did this, Schenk said.

The regional crime unit, with officers from Greater Victoria police forces, retrieved stolen property including laptop computers, iPods, GPS devices, digital cameras, cellular phones and identification linked to crimes reported in Sooke, Sidney, Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay, Shawnigan Lake and Ladysmith.

About half the items have been returned to their owners.“We’re very pleased with our success rate in identifying owners,” Schenk said. “We’ve invested a lot of time and energy researching these items.”

The investigation began when Schenk’s team traced a credit card stolen from a vehicle in Metchosin and later used at the 17 Mile Pub in Sooke. Officers obtained evidence linking the credit-card use to a car stolen from a Mill Bay home on Oct. 26.

Police issued a warrant for one man’s arrest after he was nearly taken into custody on Nov. 1. Investigators saw him leave a house in Colwood, driving his girlfriend’s car, and pulled him over. The man fled, but a search of the vehicle revealed floor mats, a car stereo and speakers from a  Mitsubishi Lancer stolen from the Mill Bay home in October.

Police obtained a search warrant, which they used to recover stolen items at the Colwood house.

The regional crime unit found evidence indicating more than one person was involved in the crimes, something police had suspected, Schenk said. Officers searched two other homes, finding more stolen items.

Derek Ernest Fast, 26, is to appear in court Thursday facing 46 charges, including break and enter, theft, possession of stolen property, possession/use of a stolen credit card, possession of a prohibited weapon, operation of a motor vehicle while disqualified and breach of probation.

Robert Iverson, 34, faces 28 charges, including theft, possession of stolen property and offences related to possession of a firearm. He appears in court Dec. 20.

Fast’s girlfriend, Tannya Barns, 27, faces 28 counts of possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm.

Iverson’s girlfriend, Jennifer Priscilla Hermans, 33, is charged with four counts of possession of stolen property and four counts of breach of probation.

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