When Lea Mestrovic loaded her dog Harley into the driver side of her 2017 Subaru Crosstrek after a trip to the off-leash area at Chief Whitecap Park on Nov. 2, things seemed normal.
It wasn’t until someone pointed it out that she realized the passenger window of her car had been smashed, glass shards covering the seat and the floor. Now, the Saskatoon dog behaviouralist is warning other dog park users to be vigilant, as she doesn’t want anyone else to fall victim while exercising their furry family member.
“It’s just disappointing to know that when you’re taking your dog for a walk that you could possibly be robbed and have your car smashed into,” she said. “I really just wanted to let other people know, more than anything, to keep an eye out, hide your belongings or take them with you — because that sucks to have to deal with.”
Mestrovic said although her purse was hidden, she lost her wallet and some equipment she uses for training dogs as a result of the break-in, which took place in the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.
She hopes her story offers people frequenting area parks a “real-life” event of theft. While there are signs posted encouraging people to take their valuables and secure their cars, they can be overlooked.
“I think just by having people be more aware that it’s an issue, maybe they can keep an eye out and watch for suspicious behaviour,” she said.
Corman Park police chief John Garnet said while these types of crimes happen “periodically” at the park, his service hasn’t recorded an increase. He said vehicle break-ins usually happen during the spring and summer months, and in many cases, they are crimes of opportunity involving a car left unlocked or valuables left visible to potential thieves.
Garnet said it’s important for park users to report any suspicious behaviour to police, noting it can be as simple as a person at the park without a dog or someone sitting in their car looking out of place.
Saskatoon has 10 off-leash dog parks. In a statement, city police said anyone parking anywhere in Saskatoon should use well-lit areas, remove all items from the vehicle — valuable or not — ensure the vehicle is locked and that keys are kept close.
Mestrovic said she’s been able to obtain video footage and information about transactions made by the person she suspects to have stolen her purse, and has sent relevant information to police.
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