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Low income Calgary woman left with $3K tab after accused vandal’s charge withdrawn

EDespite video footage of an act of vandalism on a Calgary woman’s vehicle, she was left with the $3,000 tab after the accused took part in an alternative measures program to avoid charges.

In late June 2018, P, who wants to keep her name private due to fears for her safety, was at the Wyndham Garden Airport Hotel around 4 p.m.

She had parked her recently leased 2018 Black Ford Edge in the parking lot, a car she’d spent years saving to afford. When she returned to the car, she didn’t notice the damage at first – the car was a little dirty and she thought the crack in the glass was bird poop.

Video showing the vandalism. Provided by P.

Then, she did notice.

P hustled back to the hotel and asked for security footage of the area around her car, and when she viewed the footage, there, in broad daylight, she saw a person smashing her vehicle.

“This comes from somebody that hasn’t had a car in a really long time, could barely afford a car, and could finally afford a car,” P told LiveWire Calgary.  

“The car was sentimental. I know it sounds stupid, but when you finally have the money to get something and then somebody comes and vandalizes it.”

Windows had been cracked and damage had been done to the hood and the door. The accused didn’t gain entry to the vehicle.

P went to police to report the incident. At the time, she felt she wasn’t getting cooperation from police and she pressed them to continue their investigation.

“She (the officer) just kept telling me to contact my insurance company.”

P carries a $1,500 insurance deductible and being low income, it was a hit she couldn’t afford, especially after having forked out $200 to fix the glass, and another $200 to touch up the car.

Calgary police incident report and updated. SCREENSHOT COURTESY CRACKMACS

Since it’s a lease, P said she has to return the car in new-like condition to avoid penalties.

Emails provided to LiveWire show ongoing correspondence between P and a Calgary Police Service officer, where the officer did indicate that the fastest course of action would be to contact insurance. The officer did also encourage patience through the process, as they needed to conduct a proper investigation to identify the suspect, and that they were managing multiple cases at once.

Frustrated with this, P took it into her own hands to find out who the person was. She reached out to Calgary social media maven Crackmacs, to spread the word. Soon enough, information on the accused came pouring in. It was collected and provided to police.

“I’m not the one who should be playing detective, risking my own safety,” P said.

Despite a discouraging timeline, a suspect was identified, arrested and later charged. LiveWire has chosen not to identify the woman by name because there is no longer a charge against her.

P said she was told, later confirmed in emails, that if the matter went to court she would be served a subpoena. She never received one.

That’s because the case only went to the docket stage, not to a trial, according to the Alberta government. The final hearing was March 8 and P heard about it March 11.

“The accused, (LiveWire withheld name), participated in the alternative measures program where she completed an apology letter and an essay, and made a charitable donation of $250. Following the outcome of the alternative measure program, the Crown withdrew the charge of mischief against the accused,” read an emailed statement from Katherine Thompson, with the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General’s office.

 “As this case was in the docket stage a trial was never set and as such the complainant would not have been subpoena’d to attend. Complainants are only required to appear in court when served with a subpoena or when the Crown asks them to come to present a victim impact statement. They are always welcome to voluntarily attend any court appearance.”

The Alternative Measure Program is in place to divert accused persons from the traditional court system so that the criminal justice response is proportionate to the crime committed and the resources that would be needed to prosecute the crime.

P said despite repeated calls to the court to find out information on the accused’s hearings, she was never informed. She said wasn’t asked to submit a victim impact statement. P admits it may have had something to do with an address change, but she was assured that when she changed her license, their database would be updated.

P was encouraged, in her contact with Calgary police, to reach out to the CPS Victim Assistance Unit for advice on potential restitution and court support.  In the same correspondence she was told that “If a suspect is identified, charged and convicted, the court may order restitution to you to pay for the damage.”

The province does have a page dedicated to outlining victims’ rights in Alberta under the Alberta Victims of Crime Act.

She said she’s been told that she won’t qualify for victim’s aid and that in order to recoup damages she’ll likely have to make a civil claim.

The province’s guide for financial help for victims of crime expressly states that “motor vehicle incidents are generally not eligible for the Financial Benefits Program.” Also, if a charge is withdrawn, it makes application for restitution unlikely.

P’s frustrated. She feels the accused got off with a “slap on the wrist,” and she’s left to pick up the pieces.

“She gets off with an essay and there’s $3,000 left for me to pay. You tell me how that’s justice,” she said.

“I feel like I’m being treated like the criminal in the end.”

Editor’s note: Original story has been updated just above with additional information on victim’s aid.