In the first eight months of this year

Grand theft auto: Hundreds of vehicles stolen in first eight months of the year

The phone call that made Lana Bridges’ day came out of the blue.

The phone call that made Lana Bridges’ day came out of the blue.

A week after husband Clarence’s Ford F-350 pickup was stolen from behind their Deer Park home, someone called to say she was sure that truck was sitting in front of her Blackfalds house. The caller had seen a picture of a similar-looking truck posted on a local Facebook page: Red Deer Stolen Vehicles.

It turns out the caller was right.

“It was social media that found our vehicle,” said Bridges, who got the idea to post the photo on the site from her niece.

Bridges got her truck back, minus the GPS, backup camera, and two full sets of ATV and truck tires.

The theft happened sometime between 10 p.m. on Aug. 23 and 6 a.m. the following morning. Thieves broke into the truck, wrecking the door handle in the process. They damaged the steering column and jammed something in the ignition to start it.

While it’s nice to have the truck back, the Bridges are still out a $1,000 deductible for the stolen extras, which aren’t covered by their vehicle insurance and had to be claimed under their home plan. The whole experience — which included police and insurance companies slow to return phone calls — has been frustrating and eye-opening.

The couple now plan to protect the truck with a steering bar or some other security measure.

“It’s just too bad that people have to do that,” said Bridges. Her heart goes out to all those vehicle owners who are victimized. For some, losing their vehicle directly affects their livelihood and can be a huge loss beyond basic transportation.

“I just feel so bad for the people.”

Many victims have turned to the same Facebook page for help recovering their vehicles.

New posts appealing for people to be on the lookout for a particular vehicle, trailer or even bicycle appear almost daily.

One Mountview resident who posted on Sept. 5 had two vehicles, a Volkswagen station wagon and pickup, stolen the same night.

Fortunately, they were both recovered on the other side of town, according to a Sept. 11 post.

Another person’s truck was stolen twice, the second time only 11 days after it had been recovered.

Started in March, the page has become a go-to place for those with lost vehicles.

In the first eight months of this year, Red Deer RCMP received 600 reports of thefts or attempted thefts of trucks, cars, SUVs and minivans.

No surprise, trucks are the No. 1 choice.

Most of them are found pretty quickly, albeit often damaged and with their contents swiped.

To get a snapshot of the problem, take a week this past August.

From Aug. 3 to 9 in Red Deer, 12 trucks were reported stolen to police and nine recovered. There were two attempted thefts. Four cars were also stolen, three recovered, plus one attempt. A pair of SUVs were stolen and two recovered.

Red Deer RCMP issue regular reminders to vehicle owners to protect their rolling investments.

Too many people make stealing vehicles remarkably easy.

The police call them “crimes of opportunity,” although crimes of probability would seem more accurate in many cases.

In late June, the RCMP pulled together some statistics to make their point.

Since May, 11 stolen vehicles had been left unlocked. At least 17 had spare keys hidden inside. Six had been left running while owners stepped into a store or their homes — and that wasn’t during a period when it was -30C.

Others were stolen from garages where thieves found spare keys inside the garage.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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