Edmonton

SUV and $30,000 of art and supplies stolen from Spruce Grove neighbourhood

An SUV loaded with a Spruce Grove artist’s paintings and supplies was stolen out of her driveway after a successful weekend at Edmonton's Whyte Avenue Art Walk.

'This is just devastating for an artist,' friend says

Chris Riley's booth at the Edmonton Whyte Avenue Art Walk on Sunday, July 9. All 36 original paintings were stolen, along with her car. (Chris Riley)

A Spruce Grove artist is out tens of thousands of dollars in original artwork and supplies after her car was stolen right out of her driveway.

At 9 p.m Sunday, Chris Riley returned to her acreage just outside of Spruce Grove, exhausted from a full weekend of displaying her art at Edmonton's Whyte Avenue Art Walk.

She pulled her car, a silver 2010 Ford Flex, into her driveway, and fell into bed. By early Monday morning, her car was gone — and so was all of her art.

"It's a good chunk of my collection," she said Tuesday. 

Riley had left a spare key in the console.

She believes there's more than $30,000 worth of merchandise, paintings, postcards, print racks and money in the stolen vehicle, along with 36 of her original works.

One of Riley's stolen paintings. Her larger works normally sell for between $1,100 and $1,800 apiece. (Chris Riley)

"It's a complete stinking feeling ... it's like this slow-motion, rapid-fire realization that this really happened, and that it happened to you," she said Tuesday. "My life is going to be completely different now."

Kim Fjordbotten, owner of Edmonton art supplies store The Paint Spot, shared Riley's story on Instagram Monday afternoon.

"This is just devastating for an artist," Fjordbotten said Tuesday. "In most cases, it's work that you can never replicate."

Although the vehicle was full of art, Riley said she believes the thieves got lucky — the Ford was the target, not her work.

Before the theft, Riley was working on installing a gate and extra security on her home before she opened her own gallery in her garage.

Riley said the officer attending to the case "had some ideas" about where her car might be, but no solid leads yet.

RCMP are still investigating the case.

"Some people prey on others in society and would rather not earn something, and just take it for themselves," Staff Sgt. Mike Lokken of the Stony Plain detachment said in an interview.

"If we see a pattern, we will look into it." 

Auto theft on the rise

In May, the Edmonton Police Service, the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the RCMP launched a campaign called #LockOutAutoTheft to educate consumers on ways to protect themselves against auto theft.

In Edmonton last year, 4,865 vehicles were stolen, a 41-per-cent increase from the 3,453 vehicles stolen in the city in 2015.

Like Riley's Ford Flex, more than half of all stolen vehicles had keys left inside.

Riley believed her neighbourhood was safe enough, so she could leave her car door open and a key inside.

"My mistake was, between shows and helpers, I ended up with two sets of keys ... and thought it would be better if I left one in the console of my car," she said.

"I've been living out here for 15 years, and nothing even close to this has happened."

Some cars are more prone to theft than others. Of the vehicles on IBC's Top 10 stolen vehicles list for 2016, six were different model years of Ford's F-350 four-wheel-drive pickup.

The #LockOutAutoTheft campaign gives some recommendations on how to prevent auto theft, including locking the steering wheel, turning off the vehicle and keeping all extra keys with the car's driver.

anna.desmarais@cbc.ca

@anna_desmarais