Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations for the AMA, wants to reduce car thefts — as does Insp. Gerald Grobmeier of the Red Deer RCMP.

WATCH: Thefts from some 2,600 vehicles occurred in Red Deer in 2017

‘Lock It or Lose It,’ police and AMA tell motorists

Thefts from vehicles are down slightly in Red Deer, but the local RCMP and the AMA are continuing their Lock It or Lose It campaign.

Insp. Gerald Grobmeier said he’s pretty happy thefts from vehicles have dropped to 2,600 in 2017 from 3,000 in 2016, but “we’re still not satisfied with the numbers… They are far too high.”

He aims to get the word out to even more motorists this year about the importance of not leaving keys in the ignition, or vehicle doors unlocked.

Grobmeier credits at least part of last year’s theft decrease to a public awareness partnership between his Red Deer RCMP detachment and the local Alberta Motor Association office. Their Lock It or Lose It campaign, which is targeted at AMA members and the general public, is now being expanded province-wide.

Alberta leads the country in vehicle thefts, accounting for more than a quarter of all auto thefts in Canada. Some 23,000 cars or trucks are stolen in Alberta stolen each year, more than three times the national average or 62 vehicles a day.

In Red Deer, 1,562 vehicles were stolen in 2017 — an increase from 1,406 in 2016.

Jeff Kasbrick, the AMA’s vice-president of government and stakeholder relations, said he doesn’t understand why anyone would leave their car running and doors unlocked — even for a moment.

He compares it to leaving a duffle bag containing $20,000 to $30,000 of cash sitting in a parking lot for anyone to take. “Unlocked doors or keys in the ignition are an open invitation for thieves to steal your vehicle.”

Besides auto insurance rates going up, there are many other important reasons for trying to prevent vehicle thefts. Grobmeier noted most stolen cars or trucks are used for carrying out other crimes, including transporting weapons, drugs, or more stolen property. “For one car theft, we might have to open eight or 10 other files…”

He added that auto thieves have used stolen vehicles to try to run down the police officers trying to apprehend them. They have endangered other drivers and pedestrians while speeding away.

Criminals also routinely use documents found in vehicles to perpetrate fraud and identity theft — which can create a nightmare for the motorist who then has to deal with all the fall-out, said Grobmeier.

The AMA plans to continue putting the word out about Lock it or Lose It, as the RCMP asks for the community’s help in preventing property crimes.

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