February is auto crime enforcement month in British Columbia

VANCOUVER, Feb. 1, 2007 – February is Auto Crime Enforcement Month in British Columbia. During this month, the provincial government, police, and ICBC are working together to reduce auto crime through a number of innovative initiatives.

The problem: Auto theft is linked to almost every other common crime such as break and enters, mail theft, purse snatching, and armed robbery. Drug-addicted car thieves steal vehicles to help them commit other crimes to raise cash to buy more drugs. In 2005, 12 people were killed in B.C. in stolen car crashes, and hundreds more were injured. The financial cost of auto crime to the residents of British Columbia is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2005, ICBC alone paid out more than $130 million in auto-crime-related claims.

Tools for the public: Ten “top 10” lists have been created that will educate the public about how they can prevent auto crime, which is not just a police or insurance problem, but is everyone’s problem.

Police enforcement: Police chiefs from across the province have endorsed Auto Crime Enforcement Month, and are providing resources to focus on auto crime through the identification of high-risk locations and the targeting of repeat offenders. IMPACT (Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team) has provided all B.C. police forces and detachments with updated training and tools specific to capturing car thieves and holding them in custody. In addition, a “10 most wanted” car thieves list has been generated, and officers will be searching for these 10 offenders with a goal of having all of them in custody by the end of February.

Tools for the police: The Province of B.C. has taken steps to make sure police have many tools in their auto theft toolbox, including new technology. In addition to the highly successful bait car program that was first launched in 2002, there is the bait recreational vehicle program and Air One, the $2.2-million helicopter that serves Lower Mainland communities. Last fall, B.C.’s Solicitor General introduced the Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, which helps officers keep dangerous drivers off the road and provides important data that helps police target criminal activity. The Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME) has also been a great tool for police because it allows them to instantly access information and share details about crimes like stolen vehicles, and potential suspects, with other police agencies. Police also use undercover auto crime enforcement teams, police dogs, and chronic offender programs. As an educational tool for secondary-school students, watch for the 2007 release of “Stolen Lives,” a 34-minute video that will illustrate the real impact of auto crime on society.

ICBC education: ICBC is supporting the extra enforcement through an advertising campaign targeted at auto thieves. ICBC is also working with community partners to raise awareness of ways to prevent auto crime, through advertising and a number of community initiatives. In the Lower Mainland, awareness initiatives will focus on younger motorists, as people aged 16 to 25 are more than twice as likely to have their vehicle stolen. Volunteer groups will be out in full force during the month conducting parking-lot patrols and checking for stolen vehicles.

Visit www.baitcar.com for the complete top 10 lists. Auto theft stats are available at www.icbc.com.