Prison service suffers embarrassing break-in at regional facility

CSC vanThe federal agency entrusted to keep 15,000 criminals safely locked behind bars in more than 50 penitentiaries across Canada apparently can’t safeguard one of its key administrative buildings from simple burglars. The facility in Kingston, Ontario – a site that, according to my sources, houses dozens of high-powered weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition – was burgled recently by a thief who made off with keys to a prison service vehicle. The bandit got away largely because, remarkably, the Correctional Service of Canada regional staff college does not have a security officer on duty at the site overnight because of cost cutting.

Last year, Corrections Canada stopped paying a Commissionaire to patrol the staff college and neighbouring regional headquarters building after 8 p.m., a move that likely saved a few thousand dollars yearly. The headquarters building contains sensitive and confidential files but the staff college building, according to my sources, may contain as many as 50 9 mm pistols, 50 AR 15 .223 rifles, more than a dozen tear gas guns and dozens of 12 gauge shotguns. In addition, there may be 100,000 or more rounds of ammunition, including tear gas shells, on site. Corrections uniforms also are stored in the building. The firearms and ammunition are held in secure vaults and were never within reach of the burglar, sources tell me. According to an internal memo obtained by Cancrime (read it below), the thief broke into the building on April 22 by kicking out a pane of glass in a front entrance window.

“The unknown person(s) searched through the commissionaires desk, took one set of keys belonging to a Staff College GMV [government motor vehicle] and exited through the kitchen,” wrote Therese Lalonde, director of the staff college, in a memo to CSC staff dated April 22, 2015. “Alarms were activated in both locations. The GMV was not taken, only the keys were stolen.”

When the alarms went off, the Commissionaire headquarters dispatched a guard in a patrol vehicle. When the guard arrived, the broken front door was spotted and city police were called. Officers arrived quickly but the thief was not caught.

Admittedly, this is not a scandal of sweeping proportion, but it’s troubling evidence of a bureaucratic operation with immense public responsibility that makes questionable decisions and evades disaster by good fortune more than smart management. If thieves were to break into the staff college and penetrate those firearms vaults, it could be catastrophic, since the weapons likely would make their way into the hands of organized crime and gangs.

Corrections Canada has a 2015 budget of $2.3 billion, down significantly from the $2.6 billion spent three years ago, the result of system-wide cost cutting ordered by Ottawa.

Below is the internal CSC memo, obtained by Cancrime, detailing the April 22, 2015 break-in at the staff college in Kingston, Ontario:

 

 

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