New Brunswick

Fredericton senior finds used needles, spray-painted windows after garage break-in

There has been a 30 per cent increase in break-and-enter charges in Fredericton between 2018 and 2019, according to police.

In 2019, the Fredericton Police Force saw a 30% increase in break-and-enter charges

At the end of December, Donald Fraser had his garage broken into. The perpetrators left a huge mess and a handful of hypodermic needles. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

A Fredericton senior started off the new year stumbling upon a handful of hypodermic needles and tools littered all over his garage floor following an overnight break-in.

"Everything [was] dishevelled," said Donald Fraser, who lives alone at his home on Woodstock Road.

"Stuff all moved around. You could tell somebody's been in there." 

The 88-year-old has lived at his childhood home since 1937 and has never had to deal with anything like this.

Now, he's a bit more apprehensive at night.

"If I hear a noise that I don't recognize, I get up and have a look out … the house creaks just from frost. You hear that and you wonder, 'what was that?'"

Cunning criminals

Fraser doesn't know exactly what day his garage was destroyed. He believes it was between Dec. 29 and Jan. 1, when he first discovered the mess.

That's because the perpetrators took efforts to make sure they weren't caught.

The people who broke into Fraser's garage also spray-painted the inside of his windows silver, so it looked like frost from the outside. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

They put canvas over the side door of the garage and spray-painted the windows so they appeared to be frosted.

"I think that was to not be noticed from the outside," he said.

And it worked.

Fraser didn't notice anything amiss until New Year's Day.

Neither did the man who regularly plowed his driveway, or the tenant who lives in an upstairs apartment in the three-storey home.

Jump in garage break-ins

But Fraser isn't the only one who experienced a break-in on his Fredericton property last year.

There has been a 30 per cent increase in break-and-enter charges between 2018 and 2019, according to Fredericton police.

Meanwhile, break-and-enters involving outbuildings, sheds and garages, have increased by 28 per cent.

Last year, there were 107 of these buildings that were broken into. That number is up from 56 break-ins in 2018. 

And some of those break-ins were committed by repeat offenders. 

The new numbers come from a year in review by the Fredericton Police Force, which was delivered at a city council meeting earlier this week.  

'Areas of concern' in Fredericton

Fredericton Police Chief Roger Brown wasn't surprised by the newly released figures.

"There are certainly areas of concern in the city that we need to focus the organization on."

Brown said thefts are an easy way for someone addicted to drugs to support their habit.

"A lot of this is people trying to zero in on thefts that are relatively easy, to be able to turn [what they take] into cash relatively easy to support a drug habit," he said. 

"That's one of the things that are driving these numbers, without a doubt."

Fredericton Police Chief Roger Brown set up a full-time drug team to get to the crux of the city's drug issue.

In 2019, Fredericton police set up a full-time drug team to deal with the problem. 

"We're spending a considerable amount of time building up those files to try to get to the crux of this issue."

Fredericton still a 'very safe city'

Since 2018, the number of phone calls to police concerning issues related to mental health have more than doubled.

Last year the force received more than 400 calls from people in distress over a mental illness — that's up from 150 calls in 2018.

Common assaults have also increased by 19 per cent. They can include anything from bar fights to domestic abuse. 

Brown said the increasing mental health calls, commons assaults, drug addiction and thefts are interconnected. 

Fredericton police chief Roger Brown takes a look at crime in the city last year.  The numbers show crimes against people and property are up, and illegal drugs are part of the problem. 14:57

"When you see people that are struggling with mental health issues, it's not rare, in fact it's common to see that turn into assaults or aggression."

And people battling with mental illness might also turn to drugs as a means to cope. 

Brown maintains Fredericton is no different — or less safe — from any other city across the country.

"We're seeing the same issue in any city across Canada," he said.

Still, residents should take precautions. On surveillance videos, Brown said police often see thieves checking to see if a door is unlocked before entering.

"If a door's unlocked, they're going to look in," he said. "The easiest way to start dealing with that is to lock our doors."

For more than 80 years, Fraser and his family kept the backdoor to his family home unlocked.

He doesn't do that anymore.

"It's made me more aware," said Fraser.

With files from Jordan Gill & Information Morning Fredericton

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