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Lottery ticket helps break Greater Victoria crime spree

A stolen lottery ticket worth $42 has helped police unravel an Esquimalt man’s region-wide theft from vehicle crime spree.

Regional Crime Unit officers arrested a 46-year-old man on on Feb. 21 around noon near his home in the 600-block of Grenville Avenue. Police found at least 100 pieces of stolen property in his residence, mainly electronic items like cellphones, iPods, cameras and GPS units.

As of Friday, officers have connected the stolen goods to 24 separate thefts from vehicles, including 12 from Saanich, and the remainder from Sooke, West Shore, Oak Bay, Central Saanich, and Sidney. In the first half of February, auto crime in Saanich alone spiked to 86 thefts from vehicles.

RCU investigators caught a break from a car break-in in the 1600-block of Ash Road near Mount Doug Park, from Feb. 12. The thief had stolen a Lotto Max ticket that the owner had photocopied, as it was part of a group purchase.

Armed with a serial number and due to the lucky fact the ticket was a $42 winner, the B.C. Lottery Corp. was able to pinpoint that it was cashed at a Chevron in Esquimalt, and from that, police started to zero in on a suspect through video footage.

RCU Staff Sgt. Gary Schenk said the gas station video wasn’t good enough to identify a suspect right way. But around the same time, a fingerprint from a different theft from vehicle case in Saanich produced a hit from the national fingerprint database – a real life CSI moment. The RCU had a name – Darin Hagel.

RCU officers soon realized this suspect had shown up in police surveillance of another offender under investigation in December. Between the gas station video and police surveillance footage, the RCU figured they had their man.

“In that (police) video he was wearing the same toque and vest as when he cashed that lottery ticket. In our business we call that a clue,” Schenk joked. “All combined, that allowed us to arrest him for the stolen lottery ticket.”

RCU officers have spent the past week cataloguing and returning stolen goods to their owners. Most are electronic items, but the latest was a distinctive cowboy hat taken from a vehicle in Saanich.

“It was one of those situations of good police work and good luck,” remarked Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie.

Schenk said since the Feb. 21 arrest, police have already seen a significant drop in thefts from autos in the region.

“He is definitely a good on to get off the street,” Schenk said. “And it gives officers tremendous job satisfaction returning stolen property.”

Darin Hagel, 46, is charged with 23 counts of theft, possession of stolen property, and mischief. He has a court hearing on March 14 and remains in custody.

Hagel was known to Greater Victoria police agencies for property crimes 10 or 15 years ago, but had lived in the Lower Mainland until recently, Schenk said. Hagel has an extensive criminal record in most Metro Vancouver cities.

The RCU is comprised of police officers from Saanich, Oak Bay, Central Saanich, West Shore RCMP and provincial RCMP.

editor@saanichnews.com

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