Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jul 2000
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2000 The Province
Contact:  200 Granville Street, Ste. #1, Vancouver, BC V6C 3N3 Canada
Fax: (604) 605-2323
Author: Adrienne Tanner


He's 28 - a drug addict and a professional thief with close to 70
convictions for stealing, mostly from cars. The problem is, judges rarely
jail people like Dax Shortt. Time after time, courts have set him free to
rob again.

Set Free To Steal Again, Smash-And-Grab Petty Thief Clogs Court And Costs
Drivers Dearly

Dax Shortt is a professional, a thief of the lowest order whose crimes leave
a trail of shattered car windows and ICBC claims.

The 28-year-old drug addict has chalked up 70 convictions since he reached
voting age, most of them for smash-and-grabs, often yielding little more
than CDs and parking-meter change.

While crimes like Shortt's may seem minor, car break-ins and thefts resulted
in more than 100,000 insurance claims which cost B.C. drivers $130 million
last year.

Petty thieves like Shortt clog the courts and pose a unique problem for the
judicial system.

Judges are reluctant to mete out heavy jail terms for minor offences.
Shortt's five-page criminal record is evidence of a system willing to give
even chronic criminals one more chance.

Although his record includes more than one business break-in, he has never
been sentenced to more than nine months in jail.

For police, his case illustrates the futility of going easy on a heroin and
cocaine addict who has no will to quit.

Shortt's latest stay at a rehabilitation centre lasted less than three

"He arrived here at approximately 11:30 a.m., had a good lunch and decided
at 14:00 that this was not the place for him, so he left," staff at
Cornerstone Manor wrote in a letter to court officials.

He is no longer welcome.

Police, who keep on arresting the same people for the same crimes, are
losing patience with the revolving courthouse door.

"This is how he supports himself -- by breaking into cars," says Vancouver
police Sgt. Jim Fisher. "How many times do we have to catch him?"

When Shortt appeared in Vancouver provincial court in May he had 65
convictions and was facing charges on five more petty crimes, including two
car break-ins.

And still, Judge Carlie Trueman gave him the benefit of two conditional

Designed for minor crimes, conditional sentences allow offenders to serve
their time in the community under certain conditions.

On May 10, Trueman spared Shortt a jail term on the condition that he attend
Cornerstone Manor, a residential drug treatment program in Surrey.

He did not show.

About two weeks later, Kelowna police caught him breaking into a Jaguar with

He was charged and sent back to court in Vancouver where Trueman gave him
yet another conditional sentence.

This time she ordered him delivered to the steps of the rehabilitation
house. He stayed for lunch and promptly hit the streets.

On June 22, Shortt struck again, punching out the rear window of a car with
Washington plates.

When he appeared last week in court, no one argued for his release. Shortt
even admitted to his lawyer that "maybe jail is the best place to be."

Trueman ordered him to serve the remaining five months of his conditional
sentences in jail.

"This isn't the end you know. This is just a little glitch . . . ," she
said, giving the clean-cut thief another break to seek help for his

To spare Shortt a probation order which would disqualify him from some drug
treatment programs, the judge stayed the charges relating to the Jaguar and
the Washington car. Officially, Shortt is a thief with 70 convictions.

Fisher predicts the sentence will be merely a brief hiatus for Vancouver

"He's going to get out, break into someone else's car, steal what's there,
fence it, pawn it and use that money for drugs."
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