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Tag: Ryan Hodge

Thief in black balaclava and jacket peeks into a house around a white door.

Thefts in MD of Pincher Creek an unfortunate part of rural life

Although maybe not discussed as much as roads and water supply, rural crime continues to play a part in the lives of residents in the MD of Pincher Creek.

For Kimberly Hurst, who attended last Thursday’s Coffee With Council, it’s a topic she is very passionate about. A provincial director for Citizens on Patrol, she is active in the local chapter and with another prevention tool, Rural Crime Watch.

So, what is the difference?

“Citizens on Patrol is a much more active role, where we’re out actively patrolling your community,” Hurst explains. “Rural Crime Watch is neighbours keeping an eye on neighbours. Watching for what is and isn’t normal.”

While some might say they never see the RCMP out on patrol where they live, Hurst believes it’s unrealistic, with a large municipality, for police or bylaw officers to be everywhere.

“We need to assist them in taking ownership of communities and our areas and helping where we can,” she says. “For us to ask them to do all of that themselves, it’s not possible.”

 

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Theft in rural areas can range from a vehicle being stolen in the middle of the day, when an owner isn’t home or is preoccupied, to machinery or equipment containing copper being pawned for its value. Hurst feels that’s where the two citizen-led programs show their value.

Although COP or COPS, the acronym for Citizens on Patrol, is traditionally in larger centres like Lethbridge or Calgary, it can be just as beneficial to rural settings, as well. More often than not, it is neighbours watching out for neighbours that bring the best results.

Like RCMP, Hurst feels a lot of the crimes, particularly vehicle thefts, can be prevented with one simple thing: taking your keys with you.

“We need to take ownership and take the keys out of our vehicles,” she emphasizes. “We need to lock our houses. We need to take our garage door remotes and not leave them in the car.”

With more and more garages connected to the home, remotes can be used to get inside the home.

“If a thief gets into your garage, chances are the door that leads into your home isn’t locked. Just simple things you can do to prevent a crime,” she adds.

 

 

 

Along the same lines, on Nov. 30, the RCMP detachment in Pincher Creek is hosting its own town hall discussion on rural crime.

“It’s something we try to do every fall,” Sgt. Ryan Hodge explains. “It’s a way for us to connect with the community. Get some feedback from residents. Hear their concerns.”

Among the items to be shared is what the RCMP are doing to reduce crime. The subject, Hodge agrees, is not unique to our part of the world.

“That’s something that’s normal across the country, across our province,” he says. “

, unfortunately, is a regular occurrence.”

Like Hurst, Hodge believes being vigilant, knowing what’s happening around you, is the best way to fight crime.

“We need people to call us and let us know,” he says. “If it ends up being nothing, that’s OK, but if it ends up being new information that we need or we’ve been waiting for, it can be the difference between solving a file or not.”

 

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In fact, help from the public earlier in the fall resulted in charges against one person in a rash of vehicle thefts, Sgt. Hodge added.

“I would encourage people to take it one step further and join Rural Crime Watch. You get a lot more alerts from us. You get a lot more information and the ability to share more freely with us.”

Next Thursday’s RCMP town hall is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. inside the MD’s council chambers on Herron Street, just off Highway 6.

 

 

 

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Exterior of Pincher Creek RCMP detachment

Rural property crime on the radar for Pincher RCMP

RCMP in Pincher Creek dealt with an uptick in property crime during the month of September, particularly in the outlying areas.

“People are going in and checking rural properties that, maybe, aren’t occupied all the time. Going into shops, outbuildings, and then stealing vehicles and equipment,” Sgt. Ryan Hodge tells Shootin’ the Breeze.

One of the targets last month was summer cabins.

“I think it’s a little bit the time of the year. People with seasonal properties here are typically closing up or leaving for the year, but it’s also just a matter of having certain criminals coming into our area who are looking for opportunities, Hodge continues.

“Definitely watch for suspicious vehicles or people, of course, checking out properties, coming in and out of places where they normally wouldn’t be. Most of our rural residents and ranchers know who belongs where and if it seems suspicious, give us a call and we’ll try to follow up as best we can.”

RCMP believe most thefts can be prevented with a couple of simple rules.

“The biggest thing is keeping things locked up, keys out of vehicles and valuables secured somewhere,” Hodge says.

 

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For rural property owners, he believes good lighting is always a deterrent for a thief.

“A lot of people like the cover of darkness, so if you were to remove that, they’re less likely to be there.”

Another suggestion is video surveillance.

“Video cameras have come so far in the last few years. They are a real benefit to us,” Hodge says.

“A lot of the time when we are figuring out who our suspects are, some kind of recording, like a doorbell camera or other security camera, or even somebody taking a picture on a phone, helps us to identify the person.”

A list of prevention strategies from Alberta RCMP can be viewed online at bit.ly/3PRppuE.

As always, if you see something suspicious, RCMP encourage you to call.

If you see a crime in progress, you’re asked to dial 911. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, go online to P3Tips.com, or download the P3 Tips mobile app.

 

 

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Key in car door lock

Warning from RCMP after rash of thefts

Pincher Creek RCMP are warning drivers to lock their vehicles and take their keys with them, following a rash of vehicle thefts in the community.

“It’s been going on for a week now,” said Sgt. Ryan Hodge on Wednesday morning.

“We have an individual that’s responsible for stealing up to half a dozen vehicles. Just a matter of trying to catch up to him.”

“What we’re finding is there are keys left in the vehicle making them an easy target.”

RCMP urge anyone who sees something suspicious, like a vehicle break-in, to call 911 immediately.

Waterton lakeshore with mountains in background

Brooks man drowns at Waterton Lakes National Park

A 37-year-old man from Brooks has died following a drowning incident on the upper portion of Waterton Lakes.

Indications from the scene are the man was swimming with family Tuesday afternoon when he ran into trouble.

“Police attended and found multiple people performing CPR on an unconscious male,” says Sgt. Ryan Hodge of the Pincher Creek RCMP.

“Unfortunately, the man was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

Hodge says one of those to perform CPR was a medical doctor. Police and EMS from Pincher Creek were called out just after 4 p.m.

“From what we can tell, the person wasn’t a strong swimmer and they got into water they weren’t comfortable in. Whether it was a panic situation, we’re not sure,” he adds.

The lake, though, is known for strong undercurrents.

As temperatures climb to the upper 30s this week, many will head to nearby rivers and lakes to stay cool. RCMP recommends we practise water safety whether swimming or boating.

“Respect the water. If you’re not a strong swimmer stay in a depth of water you’re comfortable in … that you can stand up in,” suggests Hodge.

“It is also a cold lake so it can steal a lot of strength from you.”

Fire truck parked on highway surrounded by vehicles in swirling snow after a multi-vehicle crash near Pincher Creek.

Two hospitalized after at least eight vehicles collide at Cowley

Pincher Creek RCMP are investigating a series of multiple-vehicle collisions on Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Cowley, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

Hodge confirmed there were a few injuries among motorists involved in four collisions reported near Pincher Station between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.

First responders closed Highway 3 near Cowley at around 10 a.m. Thursday, following a second series of collisions. 

Hodge said it wasn’t clear exactly how many vehicles were involved in either smash-up as of Thursday afternoon.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said at least eight vehicles were involved in the Cowley pileup, including multiple tractor-trailers.

Neumann said two people were taken to hospital with moderate injuries. One was treated in Pincher Creek hospital and later transferred to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, while the other was taken to Crowsnest Pass hospital, then airlifted to a Calgary hospital.

PCES on Wednesday evening attended a single-vehicle rollover on a stretch of Highway 22 near Lundbreck and a multiple-vehicle collision on Highway 6 near Pincher Creek, Neumann said.

 

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Hodge said charges are expected against drivers believed to be responsible for some of the pileups, as per Alberta’s Traffic and Safety Act, advising that the detachment’s investigation could last through the weekend. 

What is clear is that many drivers aren’t driving to winter highway conditions, which Hodge said are notoriously treacherous between Pincher Station and Crowsnest Pass. 

Snowdrifts had crept onto Highway 3 at Pincher Station by late Wednesday afternoon, but responding officers reported adequate visibility. Neumann said the highway was slippery near Cowley Thursday morning, adding that blowing snow had reduced visibility.

 

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“People aren’t slowing down. They aren’t driving to road conditions,” Hodge said. 

Mounties don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved in any of the collisions they attended, he said. 

Pincher Creek RCMP strongly recommend that drivers use caution on Highway 3. 

“When you see a snowdrift on the highway, slow down and wait until it’s safe to drive around it,” Hodge said.

 

 

 

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Emergency workers work on an evening accident scene on icy roads near Pincher Station

Charges may await some drivers in Highway 3 pileups

Pincher Creek RCMP are investigating a series of multiple-vehicle collisions on Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Cowley, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

Hodge confirmed a few minor injuries among motorists involved in four collisions reported near Pincher Station between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.

First responders closed Highway 3 near Cowley at around 11 a.m. Thursday, following a second series of collisions. 

Hodge said it wasn’t clear how many vehicles were involved in either smash-up as of Thursday afternoon. Mounties left the highway at about noon, he said. 

Charges are expected against drivers believed to be responsible for some of the pileups, as per Alberta’s Traffic and Safety Act, with Hodge advising that the Mounties’ investigation could last through the weekend.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

What is clear is that many drivers aren’t driving to winter highway conditions, which Hodge said are notoriously treacherous between Pincher Station and Crowsnest Pass. 

Snowdrifts had crept onto the highway at Pincher Station by late Wednesday afternoon, but responding officers said visibility was decent.

“People aren’t slowing down,” Hodge said. “They aren’t driving to road conditions.” 

Mounties don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved in any of the collisions, he said. 

Pat Neumann, chief at Pincher Creek Emergency Services, wasn’t immediately available for comment before Shootin’ the Breeze filed this story online Thursday afternoon. 

Pincher Creek RCMP strongly recommend that drivers use caution on Highway 3. 

“When you see a snowdrift on the highway, slow down and wait until it’s safe to drive around it,” Hodge said.

 

 

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RCMP Sgt. Ryan Hodge speaks into a microphone at Pincher Creek town council

RCMP patrols in Pincher Creek to be scaled back

A policy change by Alberta RCMP (K Division) will shave an hour off Pincher Creek Mounties’ regular patrols, likely at a cost to the town, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

“It will specifically impact our detachment,” Hodge told town council on Feb. 13. 

K Division announced the policy a week earlier, citing the need to protect Mounties’ safety, he explained. Pincher Creek RCMP will either scale back regular patrols by an hour in the early morning or start patrols an hour later, he added. 

Coun. Mark Barber asked if this would increase the town’s annual policing costs, now budgeted at over $200,000. 

“I believe there will be a cost increase,” Hodge answered.

 

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The new scheduling policy will not take away from the detachment’s ability to police the community, and may increase the number of officer shifts, Hodge explained.

Hodge said he hoped to explain the policy change and hear from town residents more generally at an open house before the town’s police advisory committee meets on March 15.

The detachment is currently at full strength, Hodge said.

The United Conservative Party under former premier Jason Kenney voted to phase in policing costs to Albertan municipalities under 5,000 residents starting in 2020. 

 

 

Pincher Creek’s new policing budget has steadily risen from $74,000 in 2020 to just over $217,000 in 2023, according to finance director Wendy Catonio. 

Premier Danielle Smith, who succeeded Kenney last fall, instructed Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in a Nov. 8 letter to “finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service,” but Public Safety Minister Ellis said no decision had been made as of the new year.

K Division wasn’t immediately available for comment when Shootin’ the Breeze went to press Tuesday.

 

Read more from the Breeze:

At least eight vehicles collide at Cowley

Crowsnest Pass council approves business licence payment plan

Folklore shrouds early NWMP camps in mystery

 

 

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‘No decision’ on Alberta Police Service, says Ellis

Danielle Smith announced last June that she would set the plan in motion if she won the United Conservatives’ leadership campaign, which she did in October.

Premier Smith instructed Ellis in a November mandate letter to “launch an Alberta Police Service” with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. 

Smith further mandated Ellis, himself a former police officer, to work with local law enforcement and municipal governments to “establish a regional approach to policing in Alberta.” 

“There’s no decision that’s been made to establish an Alberta Police Service,” Ellis told Shootin’ the Breeze at a virtual press conference Jan. 24.

The minister said all options are on the table when it comes to curbing rural crime, pointing to Alberta Sheriffs’ success in pulling about 2,220 suspected impaired drivers off provincial highways in the last year and a half. 

“The reality is that the RCMP are struggling to meet the needs of Canadians when it comes to policing,” Ellis said, later adding, “The problem is that the RCMP just do not have enough human beings to provide their contracted services.”

 

 

Local heads of government disagree — forcefully, in some cases. 

“I can’t see how making changes in our provincial policing will have a positive effect on our community,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter told the Breeze.

“We’re 100 per cent behind the RCMP,” Reeve Rick Lemire said on behalf of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek. 

Town mayor Don Anderberg preferred not to stake a position at all, citing that town council hadn’t deliberated the issue. 

Previous councils had expressed concerns about low staffing levels at Pincher Creek RCMP, but Anderberg said the town has always had “a great working relationship” with the detachment. 

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta, which represents 69 rural counties and municipalities, including Crowsnest Pass and the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, wrote in a winter 2023 policy statement that “The creation of a provincial police force should not take place unless a detailed feasibility study proves that such an approach will reduce provincial and municipal policing costs and enhance service levels across the province.” 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

The government’s own findings show that it would cost an estimated $366 million to create an APS and move away from the RCMP. The same report, published by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2021, concluded that it would cost between $24 million and $49 million less to operate an established APS per year versus the RCMP’s current annual costs, assuming a 20 per cent pay bump in the RCMP’s new collective bargaining agreement with the federal government.

Regional crime is already down considerably across the region, according to the most recent statistics from Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek RCMP. As the Breeze reported in the new year, reported incidents of property crime and so-called persons crime (which accounts for assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, muggings, uttering threats and criminal harrasment) are at five-year lows, according to Pincher Creek RCMP’s Sgt. Ryan Hodge. 

Crowsnest Pass RCMP’s Sgt. Rendell Guinchard reported similar drops across both categories over the summer. 

Both commanders regularly consult with municipalities in their jurisdictions.

Minister Ellis repeatedly praised members of law enforcement, especially Alberta Mounties. 

“As a former police officer, myself, I personally didn’t care what uniform I was wearing,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to make sure that I was providing good service to the people that I was representing.”

Text "Three from Fort Macleod charged in Cowley break-in" over top of red and blue lights with RCMP logo

Three charged in Cowley break-in

Three people have been charged in connection with a weekend break-in at a public works yard in the village of Cowley. A fourth suspect remains at large, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP.

Mounties arrested the trio Monday on Highway 3 near Pincher Station, roughly a day after two men allegedly stole keys and hand tools from the works yard at 518 Railway Ave. in Cowley.

Two Fort Macleod men, aged 50 and 21, are charged with breaking and entering and possession of stolen property.

“There was quite a bit of property recovered,” Hodge said Tuesday. 

 

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A third suspect, a 21-year-old woman from Fort Macleod, was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property.

The 50-year-old suspect was in police custody as of Tuesday morning, held on a number of outstanding charges and arrest warrants. The second man was released Tuesday, following a telephone hearing through Pincher Creek provincial court. The female suspect was also released.

Hodge said Mounties are looking for the fourth suspect, another Fort Macleod woman who is believed to have been involved in Sunday’s break-in.

Hodge praised Monday’s arrests as the result of a combined investigation by the Pincher Creek detachment, Taber RCMP and Taber Police Services, Lethbridge Police Services and Fort Macleod RCMP.

“The only way to catch (the suspects) was to co-operate. We’re always co-operating,” Hodge said.

 

 

Magnifying glass on the word "fraud"

Rental scam affects Pincher Creek

Mounties are investigating an alleged rental fraud after a Pincher Creek homeowner found her home was listed on a rental website without permission. 

The homeowner phoned police in early November, after multiple people turned up at her address, wanting to view the property. One hopeful renter reportedly put down a damage deposit through an online money transfer.

Investigators later found at least two other area homes were being advertised on the website without their owners’ permission, according to Const. Brooke Riding, investigating officer at Pincher Creek RCMP. 

“We think this has been happening for months prior to that,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze.

 

Riding declined to name the website, explaining that police don’t believe its operators had been involved. The website has since removed all three suspicious listings, Sgt. Ryan Hodge said.

Riding declined to say if police have identified any suspects, citing the need to protect the detachment’s ongoing investigation.

Rental frauds rely on people’s willingness to send unseen landlords money online, something Riding strongly advises against. 

Carefully research a rental property to make sure it’s legitimate, and always insist on viewing a rental before agreeing to send any money, she suggests.

Anyone with knowledge of the alleged fraud is encouraged to call Pincher Creek RCMP’s non-emergency line at 403-627-6010, or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.

 

 

 

 

 

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Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.

Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.

If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.

No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.

Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.

The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.

 

 

Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.

Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.

Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.

Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.

“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.

 

 

Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left,  and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

 

Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.

“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.  

Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.

“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”

Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.

Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.

“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”

 

 

Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.

“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you

“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.

Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.

One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.

 

 

Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.

Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.

“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.

While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.

Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”

But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.

 

 

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