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‘It is a gold mine:’ Builders warned of rising lumber thefts across Canada


By Daniela Germano

The skyrocketing cost of lumber is fuelling a trend that has authorities across the country warning builders to keep their guard up.

Canadian authorities have been warning this year about the rise in lumber thefts, which has some people quipping on social media that wood has become as desirable as gold.

Det. Sgt. Tosha Ternes of the Saskatoon police said the city has seen a huge jump in thefts at construction sites since 2018.

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“We’ve driven out to these areas that are getting hit and it is a gold mine with valuable stuff laying everywhere,” Ternes said in an interview.

The thefts are mainly happening on weekends between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. when fewer people are around, she said.

Ternes also noted that some construction sites have been hit three or four times. One site lost $2,700 worth of lumber in one night. Thieves came back to steal appliances then went after flooring that was still in its packaging.

“People are going back to the same place knowing that there is stuff there,” she said.

“Our Aspen Ridge and Brighton areas in the east side of Saskatoon are new areas right now and they are getting hit a lot. Thousands of dollars in lumber, tools and everything.”

Earlier this month in another part of Saskatoon, $1,000 worth of lumber was stolen from a construction site.

Ternes said a resident called police to report a suspicious vehicle. When officers responded, they noticed the lumber in the back of an older model van.

“A lot of the times if you see that much lumber with the prices and the vehicle isn’t that expensive, it’s kind of odd on how they could afford all that lumber when their vehicle isn’t really in good working order,” she said.

The lumber was later returned to its rightful owner. A man, who Ternes said was known to police, was apprehended and charged with theft under $5,000.

In Guelph, Ont., last month, the owner of a Home Hardware wasn’t so lucky.

Guelph police spokesman Scott Tracey said a man in a stolen pickup truck rammed through the gates of the store around 4 a.m. and stole about $10,000 worth of lumber.

Surveillance footage of the theft on April 12 went viral.

“He spent over an hour, actually, loading up lumber onto the back of the truck,” Tracey said.

The man is still at large, he said, and the stolen lumber and truck have not been recovered.

Since then, Tracey said there haven’t been other cases where lumber was targeted, but thefts of construction material are always an issue.

In the Maritimes, Mounties issued a news release last weekend asking for people with information on the theft of about $1,500 worth of lumber to come forward.

RCMP in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., said the lumber was being used to put up a sign on the Trans-Canada Highway near Bishop’s Falls.

Lumber prices have also affected forests in British Columbia, with municipal officials in North Cowichan saying that they suspect tree poaching is on the rise.

Back in Saskatchewan, RCMP officers even jested this week that they cracked an “extremely Canadian case.”

Mounties from the Porcupine Plain detachment were called to a rural area last Friday to investigate a theft of posts which had been piled on a property for fencing.

The posts were found in a nearby waterway and it appeared a beaver had helped itself to the lumber to build a dam, Const. Conrad Rickards said in a news release Tuesday.

“Who could really blame these little bucktooth bandits, considering the price of wood these days?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2021.