More and more vehicles are being stolen in Red Deer, a problem that city cops are partially chalking up to drivers making thieving an easy task.
Over the last month, Red Deer City RCMP say they have received an average of 25 to 30 stolen vehicle reports per week. Last year, when the number of auto thefts rose significantly in the city, just over 14 were reported in the average week.
Whether there are more thieves around or just more easy targets, the numbers do not lie — vehicle theft has been a major problem in Red Deer over the last number of years.
Stats from 2010, compiled in the last local Vital Signs report, showed Red Deer’s auto theft rate to be 60 per cent above the national average and six per cent higher than the Alberta standard. At that time, the rate was 436 thefts per 100,000 people.
In 2013, a 24 per cent year-over-year increase was realized, with the number of thefts going from 610 in 2012 to 758 last year.
The first three months of 2014 showed a further increase compared to the same period one year prior.
And since May, the local force says, at least 11 of the vehicles stolen were left unlocked and in 17 reported cases, criminals availed themselves of spare keys hidden inside the vehicles. Six of the stolen autos were left running while their owners went inside homes or stores, and some others have been stolen from garages after the thieves found keys hidden in the structures.
“Many vehicle thefts are done on impulse when a criminal sees an easy target, and others are done by criminals going from vehicle to vehicle, looking for the easiest target,” said Cpl. Sarah Knelsen with the Red Deer RCMP.
“The harder you make a criminal work to steal your belongings, the less likely they are to target you.”
Knelsen said a spike in numbers as seen recently is a surprise given the time of year. When it is colder, a lot more vehicles are left running and thus are easy targets.
“We see a lot in the winter when it’s cold outside; a lot of people steal a vehicle to stay warm and get from point A to point B,” she said.
To help curb the problem, Knelsen said the force is seeking to educate the public along with doing its regular patrols.
Knelsen’s recommendations are for people to lock their vehicles when away from them and to not leave vehicles running or keys in the ignition. Spare keys, she says, should not be kept in vehicles or garages.