SOUTH MUSKOKA — Two scrap thieves had their getaway foiled when a Gravenhurst window shop employee caught them red-handed on March 22.
OPP Sgt. Greg Allison inspects a van loaded with scrap metal, believed to be stolen. The two suspects in the van were taken into custody Thursday afternoon after an alleged attempted theft of aluminum in broad daylight from a business along Highway 11 northbound, just south of Gravenhurst. Police said a man was dragged a short distance when he tried to stop the theft by taking the keys from the vehicle. Police apprehended the suspects near the Riverside Inn in Bracebridge.
Photo by Kim Good
Window Works service manager David Blancher said he ran out to confront the bandits after his boss saw the pair grabbing a boat battery sitting near a trailer on the shop’s video surveillance system. The bandits were attempting to back up their van to make a getaway when Blancher approached the driver.
“I don’t know why they didn’t just peel off at that point, but he stopped there and had a conversation with me,” he said. “I said to him ‘did you just steal a battery?’ and he looked at me with this shocked look and said, ‘Wasn’t it garbage?’”
Blancher said he told the driver that the battery wasn’t garbage, and that the pair should stay put because police were being called. Though the thieves took the battery back out of the van once confronted, the threat of police intervention didn’t appear to sit well with them, and Blancher was almost dragged for several feet as the pair attempted to drive off.
“I tried to reach for the keys at one point, but I kind of missed them, and then the second time I reached for them the guy sped off,” he said. “I had to run beside the vehicle so that I didn’t fall underneath it.”
Fortunately, Blancher remembered the van’s licence plate number and phoned police. OPP Const. Jim Reading said officers found the van in Bracebridge shortly afterward.
“The call came in as a suspicious person, that there was a guy stealing materials from a window shop in Gravenhurst,” said Reading. “So we started looking for the van, and one of our officers in Bracebridge locates it and pulls it over at the Riverside Inn.”
Inside the van, Reading said police found about 300 to 400 pounds’ worth of scrap metal and materials worth just under $100, including outboard motors and other batteries. Reading said police had received reports of other scrap thefts in the past few weeks.
Though Blancher said he probably should have given greater consideration to his own safety in hindsight, he said he was driven to confront the thieves as the store had been targeted by thieves in the past.
“At that point your adrenalin’s pumped,” he said. “You just don’t like people stealing from you.”
Reading said two men have been arrested and they were held for bail, but couldn’t say what charges were laid by press time.
Peter Zdraviak, 32, and Attila Horvath, 23, of Toronto have been taken into custody.
Reading reminds local merchants that scrap metals and materials could be a target for theft as they can be sold for a profit.
“Commodities are so valuable now, like metals, precious metals (and) things like copper and aluminum,” he said. “People are finding a niche in taking it.”
To deter scrap thieves, Reading encourages merchants to lock up scrap materials and to keep areas where they are stored well lighted and fenced.