Manitoba Public Insurance says Manitobans need to improve theft-proofing methods

Winnipeg, August 17, 2005 — Too many Manitobans are unwittingly tempting auto thieves to break into their vehicles, according to the latest audit conducted by Manitoba Public Insurance and its auto theft prevention partners.

Of the 9,500 vehicles checked between February and July 2005, only 3.8 per cent were equipped with electronic ignition immobilizers. More than 30 per cent of the vehicles had valuables in full view within the passenger area.

The audit results were released by Manitoba Public Insurance to mark Auto Theft Awareness Week and to remind Manitobans of the importance of keeping streets safe by protecting their vehicles.

�Auto theft is a crime of opportunity, and an unprotected vehicle becomes a target to an auto thief,� says Tim Arnason, Director of Auto Theft Prevention Operations for Manitoba Public Insurance. �We can bring this problem under control by taking simple precautions. But as this audit shows, far too many vehicles are left unprotected.�

During Auto Theft Awareness Week, Manitoba Public Insurance and its partners were out in full-force to remind Manitobans of this message. Partners in the effort included members of the Citizens On Patrol Program (COPP), Downtown Watch, West End Biz and Lighthouses Youth Program.

They were joined by students working for Manitoba Public Insurance over the summer, and by about 40 employees who volunteered to conduct vehicle audits on their own time. Theft- proofing displays were also set up at a number of malls throughout the province.

For the most part, Manitobans are careful when it comes to protecting their vehicles, with the exception of possessions left in vehicles and having an immobilizer. Other common mistakes are leaving the doors unlocked and windows open.

Public response to the vehicle audits has been positive, Arnason said. Now in its fifth year, the program expected to inspect/audit about 25,000 vehicles this year.

In addition to reducing insurance costs, theft-proofing makes our streets safer. �Earlier this year, stolen cars were being propelled down city streets. It�s like firing off a gun, having no regard where the bullet lands,� Arnason said. �Auto theft is clearly a public safety issue.�

This year, one person has been killed as a result of a stolen vehicle losing control and crashing into another car.

Manitoba Public Insurance is making it easy and affordable for all motorists to protect their vehicles and their communities with electronic ignition immobilizers. The enhanced incentive program announced in June is part of the Corporation�s plan to see 90 per cent of Winnipeg vehicles �theft-proof� within five years. Manitoba Public Insurance will pay $140 towards the purchase and standard installation of an approved immobilizer, which can now be purchased for as little as $280 from accredited outlets meeting national installation standards. The public insurer will also provide interest-free financing for up to five years. To date, nearly 4,000 Manitobans have signed for the program.

In addition, Manitoba Public Insurance will reduce the Autopac premium for protected vehicles by $40 annually (plus an additional $5 discount if the customer has selected a $100 or $200 extension deductible).

Arnason said immobilizers should be considered essential equipment in the types of vehicles stolen most frequently in Manitoba. Between 2002 and 2004, the most frequently stolen vehicles were Dodge Caravans, Plymouth Voyagers, Chrysler Intrepids, and Jeep Grand Cherokees in the 1990 to 1994 model years. Last year, the odds of theft for some of these vehicles were as high as one in five.

And while immobilizers are a powerful anti-theft tool, Manitobans shouldn�t forget to protect the contents of their vehicles as well. Valuables left in plain site are an enticement to break into a vehicle. The resulting damage is subject to a deductible if the thief was intent on stealing the contents of the vehicle, rather than the vehicle itself.

�Auto theft is a preventable crime,� said Arnason. �If you eliminate the opportunity for the thieves, you can effectively eliminate the crime.�

For more information on high-risk vehicles and the immobilizer incentive program, visit the Manitoba Public Insurance website at www.mpi.mb.ca.