Since the beginning of January, there have been a steady stream of thefts in Alberta’s foothills that should ring alarm bells for business owners and collectors of western art.
On Friday February 20, at 3:10 am, Olds RCMP responded to a break-in at RH Bell and Sons
where thieves broke through a front window and stole $25,000 worth of western bronzes.
Store owner and 15-year western art collector David Bell has lived in Olds his whole life and said he feels helpless in locating the stolen pieces of his art collection.
“I know the RCMP are busy, because these break-ins are happening every day,” explained Bell. “But what is this person going to do with these bronzes?”
Olds RCMP Cpl. Mike Black explained that the RCMP haven’t been able to link the Olds’ instance to others in the area. One month prior, a streak of break-ins had occurred an hour southwest in Cochrane, Alta.
At 3:10 am on Monday, January 19, thieves broke in through the front door of the Home Quarter Mercantile store with a crowbar, and stole 9 bronzes by Gina McDougall Cohoe, worth $25,000, in less than 2 minutes.
Two days later at around 3 am, Cochrane RCMP responded to a break-in at High Country Gallery and Framing. According to the RCMP, thieves stole $15,000 worth of paintings and bronzes by McDougall and other artists.
The rarity of these items does make them traceable, and Black says that it is important for people to know that these items are out there and that they are stolen.
“Places that these items may show up vary from eBay to pawn shops, and craigslist to Kijiji. These items could be of interest to anybody, but particularly somebody who is going to have a country western interest.”
“Buyer beware,” warns Black. “Whenever you are buying used items you have to be aware of
what you are purchasing. Do your homework before you purchase any items.”
Other businesses across the foothills that have been hit so far include Boothill Gallery and Bernie Brown Studios in Okotoks.
While a good description of the criminals hasn’t been released by the RCMP , a surveillance video in the Home Quarter Mercantile shop shows a native man in his late 30s or early 40s with grey hair, acting suspicious during business hours in their store.
These stolen items are irreplaceable and business owners are now seeking the public’s help in recovering these western bronzes. Anyone with information that may lead to an arrest and location of the statues are asked to call Olds RCMP at 403-556-3324, Cochrane RCMP at 403-851-8000 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS.
WPCA Chuckwagon driver John Walters has also had many pieces of his precious rodeo memorabilia stolen. These items include 28 buckles and a 1980 buckle commemorating cowboy Lee Coleman.
Anybody with information on the theft is asked to call the Three Hills RCMP detachment at 403-443-5539 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS.