Jeff Bruce went from crime victim to crime sleuth to crime solver in just a few hours Monday morning.
And if that wasn’t enough, the West Trail father threw in a big dose of compassion for an alleged thief he had never met before that day.
His morning began in a usual way. Shortly after 8 a.m. Bruce hopped into the family car – which was parked on his property outside a two-car garage – to drive his kids to school.
That’s when he noticed the vehicle had been rummaged through and his expensive sunglasses, wallet, and his son’s wallet, were gone.
“Unfortunately my car was unlocked,” he told the Trail Times. “I was bringing in groceries (the day before) and I assumed I had locked it. And when I felt my jacket, I thought my wallet was in my pocket, but it was actually my cell phone.”
Within minutes, Bruce was on the phone with American Express to report his stolen credit card.
The company told him the card had already been used that morning at Glenmerry Husky. Notably, Bruce’s banking and credit cards have “tap” technology, meaning no pin is needed for purchases under $100.
So on his way to the Trail police detachment, Bruce stopped by the gas station to find out if the perpetrator – or perpetrators – were still hanging around. At this point, he didn’t know how many were involved.
“I figured what the heck, I may as well see if they are still there,” he recalled. “Or get a description from the fellows that work at Husky. The guy remembered (the suspect) had a white hoodie on and a back pack.”
After the police station, Bruce’s next stop was to report his stolen bank card to the credit union in downtown Trail.
When the doors opened at 9:30 a.m. sharp, in he went.
Bruce was immediately informed that his bank card had been used twice at Walmart that morning, and it had just been used at Waneta Plaza.
“So I drove out to the mall, I had that brief description from the guy at Husky,” he said. “When I got there and looked around, I noticed a guy with a back pack and another with a white hoodie on. And I confronted them.”
Bruce stressed that he did not know either of the two young men.
“They denied, denied, denied,” he said. “Then one guy took off and ran, and the other guy went the other way.”
One of the suspects soon gave up the chase. That’s when Bruce chose to slowdown and have a heart-to-heart with the young man, whom he says appeared to be strung-out.
“I said, you’re on video tape using my cards, so you are already going to be nailed with fraud,” Bruce recalled. “I said, ‘Save me some money and (give) my wallet back, and my son’s wallet back – and my sunglasses.”
The suspect denied stealing the pricey glasses, but when he opened the back pack, there they were.
“Then I said, ‘Look I’ll take you up there (to the police station) if you want to get help,” he recounted. “You are saying you want help, it might do you good to turn yourself in, and perhaps you can straighten yourself out.”
Bruce stressed that he didn’t know the suspect, but he did ask his name.
“I had no clue who they were,” he said.
“But once the kid said who he was, I felt bad for him because his dad passed away from an overdose a few years ago,” Bruce explained. “He said he needed rehab to straighten out his life, so I said I would take him to get help, because he was going down the same road.”
By 10 a.m. Bruce had escorted the suspect to the Trail detachment.
“Officer Zilkie was absolutely outstanding at the police station,” Bruce said. “And they were shocked, this was a first. Nothing like this had ever happened before.”
In the end, Bruce says the two spent over $1,000 using the cards and stole about $700 worth of items from the car, including his son’s Christmas money that was in one of the wallets.
After such a tumultuous day, Bruce had some advice to offer others caught in crimes of opportunity like he was.
First of all, he says to be proactive and shut down all credit and bank cards immediately.
“And violence is not the answer,” Bruce said. “The kid needed a hug, not me getting physical.”
The Trail and Greater District RCMP is looking into the second male involved in the incident, and both suspects will be investigated for the theft of wallets and fraudulent use of credit cards.
Related story here: Trail man nabs suspected thieves