Vehicle theft is on the rise in Abbotsford, warn police. (AbbyPD photo.)

Red Deer vehicle thieves start 2020 on a tear

Fifty-two vehicles stolen in first two weeks of the year, including 16 running or with keys inside

The year has gotten off to a roaring start — for vehicle thieves.

From New Year’s Day to Monday, 52 vehicles were swiped in Red Deer. Sixteen of them were running or had keys in the ignition.

The latest rash of thefts highlights what has been a persistent problem in Red Deer.

The latest crime statistics available, which cover the first nine months of last year, show 933 vehicles were stolen — a 28 per cent increase over the 730 stolen over the same period in 2018.

For police, vehicle thefts are often a classic “crime of opportunity,” and when it’s cold, more people put convenience ahead of caution.

With temperatures plunging into the low -40s this week, it is tempting to crank up the vehicle and leave it running unlocked, or to keep the engine on while dashing into a convenience store.

To remind drivers of the risks they take when they leave unattended vehicles idling, local RCMP have arranged a public education event on Friday morning where officers will check on idling vehicles.

Police say the initial theft often leads to a string of crimes.

“They’re using (stolen vehicles) to commit other crimes,” said Red Deer RCMP Sgt. Karyn Kay. “They’re not being stolen for people to stay warm. They’re being used for other criminal activities within our city and in central Alberta.”

That, of course, has not been lost on local police. Red Deer RCMP’s crime reduction team has a full-time group dedicated to stolen vehicles.

“We really have stepped up our game here in Red Deer to try to catch these criminals in stolen vehicles,” said Kay. “We’ve been working really hard over the past couple of months.”

Besides keeping a close eye on known vehicle thieves, officers scour online sites and notice boards for information on stolen vehicles that might help their investigations.

It’s not a Red Deer problem, say local police.

“It’s happening all over. I wouldn’t say it’s community-specific,” said Kay.

Statistics back that up. Alberta has the worst rate of auto theft in Canada, accounting for one-third of all vehicles stolen across the country, according to 2017 statistics, says the Alberta Motor Association. The province also accounts for one-fifth of thefts from vehicles.

In 2018, there were 23,507 vehicles stolen in Alberta, trailing only Ontario — with 23,592 thefts from a population more than three times larger, according to Statista.com numbers.

The good news is that, nationally, vehicle theft is on the decline since peaking at about 600 thefts per 100,000 population in 1995, sinking to 200 per 100,000 in 2018, according to Statistics Canada.

Modern computer chip-embedded ignition keys might contribute to the problem. Replacing that second key can cost hundreds of dollars now, leaving many people making do with one and having to leave doors unlocked to warm their cars.

For those with keyless vehicles, it is worth remembering that often once the vehicle has been started and running, any thief who gets inside can drive off, said police.

Many assume that once the vehicle has gotten out of range of the owner’s key fob, it will shut off. But that is not the case.



News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer gets $7M from province for an emergency 24/7 homeless shelter

Councillor says the location will be decided through community consultations

‘Finer focus on job creation:’ Alberta government files red-ink budget

EDMONTON — The Alberta budget is counting on oil and gas bouncing… Continue reading

WATCH: Tabling of the 2020 Alberta budget

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is scheduled to reveal the provincial budget at… Continue reading

VIDEO: Grumpy sea lion resists help back to water in Washington state

Crews were able to coax her into a crate to carry her back to water

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Ministers wrap pipeline talks with hereditary chiefs for the day in B.C.

SMITHERS, B.C. — The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en sat down Thursday… Continue reading

Gardening: Taking a break from the winter

Looking for a break from winter and dream of summer without leaving… Continue reading

Ottawa imposes new rules to protect fragile population of right whales

HALIFAX — Canada has rolled out new measures to protect the critically… Continue reading

Canada pumps nearly 900 billion litres of raw sewage into waterways since 2013

OTTAWA — Canada’s old-fashioned city sewer systems dumped nearly 900 billion litres… Continue reading

Federal government in good financial shape, provinces not so much: PBO

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals could add billions of dollars in spending… Continue reading

Ottawa’s LRT line leaves thousands out in the cold during heavy snowstorm

OTTAWA — Many transit riders in Ottawa were left out in the… Continue reading

All eyes on Wet’suwet’en chiefs’ meeting with federal, provincial ministers

SMITHERS, B.C. — The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation prepared… Continue reading

Most Read