Saanich police believe they’ve busted a sophisticated commercial burglary operation that’s been plaguing Vancouver Island law enforcement agencies for months.
Three men were arrested following a break-in at the Mount Doug Market at 4101 Shelbourne St. around 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, after the phone line-based security system was cut.
Fortunately, as Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen says, there were redundancies in the market’s security system, and the compromised phone line activated a silent alarm and hidden cameras within the store.
“We responded with lots of resources in a very covert, strategic manner,” Jantzen said, explaining that officers on the scene didn’t want to tip off the burglary suspects.
A patrol officer spotted a suspicious individual who, when approached, was recognized as a suspect from a ongoing investigation involving a similar type of break-in. He was arrested without incident.
The owner of Mount Doug Market provided officers with the hidden camera footage, which confirmed that the man in custody had been in the store.
Leo Ernest Lepine, 43, currently faces one charge of break and enter.
Saanich police’s street crime unit, along with investigators and analysts from other jurisdictions, spent Wednesday investigating any link to similar incidents.
Two other men, a 25- and 27-year-old, were arrested Thursday morning in the 1400-block of Fort St. for their alleged involvement in the operation. Police are attempting to connect the break-in to 18 different incidents on the Island.
“One of the guys is implicated in the Mount Doug Market break-in. He was caught red handed on video,” Jantzen said. “The other guy, there was enough evidence to arrest him for at least one of the other break-ins.”
Jantzen said the method of operation typically involved a security system compromised from the outside before a business is searched for any cash left on site.
“This is certainly a lesson for retailers and businesses to review their security precautions. Check your doors to see how easily they can be pried, and how sophisticated your alarm systems are.”