/Minden men charged in stolen vehicle investigation

Minden men charged in stolen vehicle investigation

By Sue Tiffin

Last Saturday, April Austen woke up, put coffee on, looked out the window and saw that her family’s truck had been stolen.

Experiencing shock, then anger, then a sense of determination, she phoned the police, then asked a neighbour, who gets home from work at around 3 a.m., if he had seen the truck – a 2021 Dodge Ram – upon his return. He confirmed it had been there at that time.

“We all look out for each other, I love our road,” said Austen, speaking to the sense of security she is used to on Scotch Line Road.

She then logged in to her onboard UConnect GPS system, which allows her to remote start, lock and track the vehicle.

Meanwhile, earlier that morning, at approximately 6 a.m., Haliburton Highlands OPP recovered another stolen vehicle that was located abandoned in a snowbank up the road from Austen, on Scotch Line Road. Witnesses had seen two men flee the scene.

When the police arrived at Austen’s house just after 8 a.m., she could report her truck stolen, and also where it was located.

“I was able to tell him at the moment it parked at the Minden Legion, that it was at the Minden Legion,” she said.

The legion parking lot off of Highway 35 is where Haliburton Highlands OPP arrested and charged a 32-year-old Minden man with theft of a motor vehicle; two counts of possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000; operation while prohibited and driving while under suspension. He is scheduled to appear in court in Minden on April 6. The accused was held in custody pending a bail hearing, and released the next day.

After a follow-up investigation, a second person – a 43-year-old Minden man – was charged with theft of a motor vehicle and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 – two counts. He will also appear in Minden court on April 6.

“Definitely that had a huge influence in the success of this investigation, is the use of that GPS tracker,” said Gosia Puzio, OPP media relations and community services co-ordinator for the central region. “It was a great tool and definitely had a significant impact.”

Austen’s truck – which she uses for her cleaning business – was returned later the day it was stolen, with damage. The situation has caused her a great amount of stress.

“I feel completely violated that somebody, possibly local, did this to another person and had to cause stress,” she said. “This is my business and my livelihood. We’re a one-vehicle family, so there is no other mode of transportation, which is pretty horrible when it’s the middle of winter and you have small children and the thought of something else going wrong or me needing to get somewhere …”

OPP could not confirm yet if the Feb. 26 thefts are related to three separate vehicle thefts in Minden’s downtown in the early hours of Feb. 21, which they also could not yet confirm were related. In the past week, five vehicles, including Austen’s – have been stolen and recovered.

“The investigation is ongoing and at this time, it is unclear whether these thefts are related,” read a Feb. 22 press release regarding the first three thefts. “Members of the public are encouraged to report all suspicious activity or information that may aid in these investigations to police.”

The press release reminds residents to:

  • Always lock your vehicles and close the windows
  • Never leave keys inside of your vehicle
  • Remove everything from sight, leaving nothing in your vehicle to steal
  • Remove garage door openers from your car
  • Never leave the car running and unattended

Anyone with information, including security video, connected to any of the five stolen vehicle incidents is asked to call Haliburton Highlands OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or 705-286-1431. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or khcrimestoppers.com.

“We want to work with the community to solve these crimes,” said Melnychuk.