Criminal Investigations often remind me of the old adage “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince.”
Criminal Investigators have to sort through volumes of files before they can find a substantial case to really sink their teeth into.
In the world of property crime….Cary Preston is a definite “Prince.”
A rare offender who is as committed to his “trade” as any professional Police Officer is committed to theirs.
I first heard of Preston when I took charge of the District Six Detective office back in 2006-2007. Word was Preston was an old school safe cracker who committed crimes with the kind of prowess and precision that could only found with an elite criminal. A habitual hard ass property offender who did crime across the Prairie Provinces.
When I started to look into Preston’s criminal exploits I realized that I had an onerous challenge ahead of me. A tiny crime office with extremely limited resources and a dreadful shortage of experience. Lucky for me…..the gap in experience was negated by our Detectives enthusiasm and determination.
My initial analysis told me that Preston was responsible for over fifty (50) complex commercial break and enter offences in the City of Winnipeg alone. His target was cash….and he knew how and where to get it…..it was my belief that between 2002-2007 Preston netted in excess of $200,000 in cold hard cash. To make things worse…..his methods caused significant property damage….almost one dollar of damage caused for every dollar stolen.
These methods meant that members of the Winnipeg business community suffered a double indignity…..loss of cash and cost prohibitive damage that created costly downtime.
Hours of painstaking analysis resulted in establishing Preston’s unique modus operandi which was found to include strikingly similar traits.
- Target locations were always thoroughly cased prior to offences
- Double sided white tape was used to cover motion sensors prior to the crime….
- Alarm contacts were removed, glued together or taped
- Target of crimes was cash from safes or automated teller machines
- Angle grinders were used to cut into safes or atms
- Motion sensors were avoided by cutting through walls in bathrooms or offices
- Crimes were sophisticated and required the significant use of tools
Victim businesses were found to be the same type of establishments……places where you could expect to find cash money…..restaurants like Applebees, Grapes, Perkins & Smitty’s.
We had connected the dots at a number of these offence locations by the unique modus operandi……Preston’s signature left at every crime scene.
Things started to get more interesting when we found out about DNA results that connected a number of other similar offences. These were scene to scene hits by an unknown offender, one of which occurred as early as 2002……the same blood located at multiple crime scenes……the problem was…..the offender was unknown…..his DNA profile was not contained in the data bank.
A similar modus operandi was used at some of these crime scenes….the most significant trait was the use of the double sided white tape over the motion sensors.
(Crime analysis would subsequently show that double sided white tape had been used at a total of sixteen (16) offence locations, mostly in Winnipeg but also in Regina and Calgary.)
Prestons luck started to run out on November 8th, 2007 when he did a score at the Cathay House Restaurant at 1631 Regent Ave where he scored $15,000 cash and did over $3,000 in property damage. Shortly after he did his score an unsuspecting Police patrol car crossed his bow……in his haste, Preston ditched his truck and fled on foot. We had “flagged” Preston’s truck as a “pointer vehicle” as we had information he had used it at a commercial break & enter in Calgary, Alberta. A phone call from the patrol officers got the ball rolling……Preston’s truck was seized and a GPS tracking device was installed.
On November 10th, 2007 we gave Mr Preston his truck back.
On November 15th, 2007 we followed Preston and an accomplice to the St Marys Hotel at 531 St Marys Rd where we nabbed him after he attacked a safe scoring $13,000 in cash. Over $7,000 damage was caused to the victim premise.
(This was the very first night of our anti crime initiative dubbed Project Intervention.)
Upon surveying the crime scene we located double sided white tape on the motion sensor……the safe had been attacked with an angle grinder……the modus operandi, identical to the growing list of crimes under investigation.
Preston and his accomplice were both detained at the Provincial Remand Center…….the accomplice didn’t fool around and immediately plead guilty and received a three (3) year term of incarceration.
Preston on the other hand……had no intention of taking his medicine.
After being forced to provide a DNA sample Preston knew the clock was ticking on his crime spree…….it would be a matter of months before his DNA sample would be connected to the unsolved crimes stored in the DNA Data Bank.
Five days later, November 20th, 2007, Preston was released on bail.
We knew he wouldn’t stop……the problem for him was he still had no idea how we caught him…..the GPS tracking device was still helping us track his every move.
On November 27th, 2007 the GPS tracker put Preston in the area of X S Cargo, a retail business located at 1045 St James Street…….coincidentally…..the place got hit overnight……double sided white tape on the motion sensor……safe attacked with an angle grinder……$10,000 cash stolen and $4,000 damage done.
Although we had no doubt that Preston was behind this crime…..all we had was the GPS tracker data and a circumstantial case….this wasn’t enough to lay a charge. We needed to catch Preston in the act again so that we could put him on ice for good.
Unfortunately, Project Intervention Part II was denied at the Superintendent Level leaving investigators frustrated and angry. A short term “fix” was ordered by the Superintendent that involved extending an Alberta radius warrant for Preston…..this meant that Preston would be arrested and conveyed to Calgary to face a single Break & Enter charge. We knew that this was an extremely flawed and short sighted strategy……the investigators eager to take responsibility to catch Preston while the decision makers were eager to make him someone else’s problem….in my mind the abdication of responsibility is always a losing strategy.
Much to the dismay of the shot callers, the Calgary courts released Preston on a recognizance ordering him to immediately return to our jurisdiction….a result we had anticipated and vocalized.
The desire to rub the Superintendents nose in the shit storm that Preston’s release created was strong but there was no time for trivial distractions….we had to get refocused on the task at hand……stopping Preston’s crime spree.
Project Intervention Part III was born.
Our efforts to continue with detailed crime analysis progressed and netted significant returns when we realized that Preston had done Commercial Break & Enters on Christmas day in 2004, 2005 & 2006. His targets……Smitty’s and Tim Hortons restaurants……could there be any doubt the pattern would continue……I would have bet my house on it.
As luck would have it…..on December 24th, 2007 the GPS tracker showed Preston casing the Tim Hortons Restaurant at 1146 Portage Ave.
On December 25th, 2007 a break & enter was discovered at this location……over $3,600 cash had been stolen.
On December 26th, 2007 Preston was arrested and found to be in possession of a large amount of cash and other items from Tims.
The crime spree was over…..Preston was locked up and wouldn’t see the outside of a jail cell for a very long time.
In the mean time….DNA tests subsequently positively linked Preston to a total of seven (7) commercial Break & Enters where double sided white tape had been used to defeat motion sensors. The statistical odds that the DNA was not Preston’s was reported at a ratio of 1 to 2.4 trillion.
Preston was subsequently charged with over twenty-five (25) significant commercial break & enter offences and a multitude of other charges…..he would languish in jail for several years playing the “game”…..racking up time that he knew he would get “double time credit” for once the hammer came down.
On June 21st, 2010 Preston entered into a plea bargain arrangement that saw him receive a sentence of over seven (7) years incarceration……an impressive sentence when you consider that our Courts generally don’t impose significant jail time for property offenders.
During his sentencing……Crown Attorney Chris Vanderhooft stated “These are cold, callous and calculated crimes, where greed is the motivating factor. They are the hallmarks of a professional criminal.”
(The problem, of course, was that he did receive double time credit for nearly twenty-nine (29) months which left him with only about twenty-seven (27) months left to serve.)
Just prior to my retirement this year (May 2012) I heard that Preston was out and back at it after being released on Parole in late 2011…..
That was no surprise to me…..that kind of money is hard to walk away from for a habitual criminal.
That brings us to today…..a phone call from a friend who wanted to be the first to tell me that WPS Detectives had just nabbed Preston doing his thing again. Multiple charges to be laid for more than half a dozen commercial Break & Enter offences. The word in Police circles is that Preston netted over $100,000 cash during his recent crime spree. I expect the damage he caused was congruent with that number.
I guarantee you one thing…..the only thing that will ever stop Cary Preston from doing these crimes will be old age…….he’s a hard core committed criminal whose crimes are lucrative……a poster boy for people who argue in favor of bigger jails and longer jail sentences….
Of interest to me were the comments made by Justice Albert Clearwater at the time of Preston’s sentencing in 2010…….”Preston is a “professional career criminal” and should expect to receive maximum and consecutive sentences should he ever appear before court again.”
Like a parent threatening a disobedient child….the need to follow through with a substantive sanction is paramount……the Courts credibility will be judged based on its ability to follow through on Justice Clearwater’s threat.
Will it be an eight ball award or a hard ball award……I, for one, can’t wait to find out…
Whatever the sentence…..the Police Officers behind this arrest should be commended for their efforts to protect our business community from this parasite…..
I will sleep better knowing that Cary Preston is back on ice….
WPS PRESS RELEASE:
- March 10 – 300 block of Ness Avenue (Restaurant)
- Between March 18 & 20 – 1800 block of Grant Avenue (Restaurant)
- Between April 10 & 11 – 700 block of Watt Street (Pharmacy)
- May 31- 1700 block of Ellice Avenue (Restaurant)
- Between June 3 & 4 – 1800 block of Pembina Highway (Grocery Store)
- June 8 – 1500 block of Regent Avenue (Restaurant)
- June 13 – 1700 block of Ellice Avenue (Restaurant)
- October 10 – 1100 block of Pembina Highway (Business)
- October 15 and 16 – 2500 block of Portage Avenue (Business)
- October 26 – 1000 block of Nairn Avenue (Business)
WFP – June 21, 2010 Man gets seven years for sophisticated robberies http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Man-gets-seven-years-for-sophisticated-robberies-96832974.html?viewAllComments=y
The Fugitive poster in the slideshow was created by one of the Detectives who worked on the case…..this poster illustrates one of the dangers of having a forensic artist on your team!
Preston case developed as centrepiece for WPS Criminal Investigators Training Course