Only 55 out of 155 vehicles at Parkland Mall passed the Lock it or Lose it test on Oct. 30.
Red Deer RCMP Const. Derek Turner said only 35 per cent of drivers in the lot took action to make their vehicles less tempting to criminals.
“The numbers are disappointing – cash, purses, cellphones and other valuables were left in plain sight in almost a third of the vehicles checked, as well as an unsecured dirt bike in the back of a truck that could have been stolen in seconds,” Turner said.
“Many smash and grab crimes are preventable, and on that day, volunteers saw many clear cases of people not meeting the police halfway. And that people continue to leave keys in their vehicles is astonishing.”
Turner said stolen vehicles are a danger to everyone on the road and are often used to commit more crimes.
For the ongoing public education campaign, Red Deer RCMP officers and Citizens on Patrol volunteers conducted visual inspections of parked vehicles.
They did not try doors or touch vehicles, other than to leave a report card at the vehicle, flagging temptations that might encourage a thief to break into the vehicle or try to steal it.
Among the vehicles checked, two had visible keys left inside, 25 had possessions or cash in plain view, 10 had electronics on display, and 17 had a garage door opener in plain sight.
Police said visible garage door openers are a temptation when vehicles are parked outside a home, because thieves will smash windows in order to steal the devices, which they can then use to access the garage – and the residence itself — if a connecting door is left unlocked.
Frances Thibeault, of Red Deer, said she always locks her vehicle and never leaves anything of value visible, so she’s never had a problem.
Once, somebody tried to break into the company truck her son drives. At home, he parks it outside because it’s so big.
“But his dogs are the best alarms in the world. My two dogs are very good alarms. If anyone goes too close, I have a Chihuahau. He barks like a son of a gun,” said Thibeault, who had her dogs in her vehicle in Parkland Mall’s parking lot Friday.
She was surprised to hear the results of Lock it or Lose it.
“You would think (drivers) would be more conscious of what’s going on, but a lot of people don’t think of it. Like car windows down, stuff like that. If you lock it and your window’s down, it’s not going to help much,” Thibeault said.
Brad Romanuik, of Gull Lake, said vehicle theft is a growing concern in rural areas.
“I’ve heard people literally watching their truck drive away while they’re in the field combining during harvest,” Romanuik said at Parkland Mall.
He said it’s a huge inconvenience having your vehicle stolen, especially in rural areas.
“If it happens to me out there, I’m stranded. I’m half an hour from Red Deer, where I work. You lose pay, deal with insurance. It’s not fun.”
He said some people think nothing is going to happen to their vehicles, so they don’t take extra steps to protect them. Others don’t think they can stop thieves, Romanuik added.
“If they want your vehicle, they’re getting in. So they just abandon ship on trying to secure their stuff. There are people with that attitude, and a lot of people are just careless.”
During Lock it or Lose it checks, vehicle owners also get reminders about expired or soon-to-expire registration, and volunteers flag issues such as cracked windshields or a note stating the vehicle appeared to have been left unlocked.
Five Lock it or Lose it events were done in 2017, and five so far in 2018.