ICBC announces “No Free Ride” for auto thieves

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VANCOUVER, Sept. 12 – The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), the provincial government, and police are putting auto thieves and their passengers on notice that, if they steal a vehicle, they will be held financially responsible.

Project “No Free Ride” is an initiative focused on recovering costs through civil litigation from auto thieves and deterring auto theft. Those involved in stealing vehicles will be held financially responsible for the entire cost of a theft claim, regardless of whether or not they are charged and convicted criminally of theft or possession of stolen property. ICBC is partnering with the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), and other police to identify people in possession of stolen vehicles and, where appropriate, take civil action against them.

“This is another valuable tool in the fight against auto theft,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General John Les. “The provincial government is committed to making streets safer in B.C., and we have been effective in reducing the number of vehicles being stolen through the Bait Car Program and other auto crime initiatives. Project No Free Ride is the next piece in the puzzle to stop auto theft.”

A civil judgment remains in effect for 20 years. ICBC has the statutory right under the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act to refuse to issue or cancel both driver’s license and insurance while a judgement remains unpaid. ICBC expects that most people during those two decades will want to drive, and they will have to pay back these court awards to do so.

In 2005, there were almost 21,000 vehicles reported stolen to ICBC at a cost to policyholders of $86 million.

“As overall claims costs continue to rise, ICBC is actively seeking new programs like Project No Free Ride, to keep rates low and stable,” said Mark Withenshaw, ICBC vice-president of Loss Management. “This program is an extension of our practice to recover the cost of auto crime from those convicted of auto theft. Thieves need to know that the net is closing in, and there will be No Free Ride when it comes to auto crime.”

As part of the launch of this project, ICBC is sending warning letters to known auto thieves, putting them on notice. In conjunction with the launch of Project No Free Ride, ICBC has also commenced, or is in the process of commencing, civil action against more than 50 convicted auto thieves, seeking damages in excess of $2 million.

After years of steady growth, in 2004 and 2005, auto crime in B.C. experienced significant declines, thanks in part to programs such as the Bait Car and public education. ICBC and the provincial government continue to look at innovative ways to further reduce auto crime.

ICBC’s investments in combating auto crime include:

  • Support for the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT)

  • Support for Bait Car programs across the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and the Southern Interior

  • Partnerships with property owners (malls and parking lots) and business improvement associations

  • Support for volunteer community patrols

  • Public education — parking lot signs, advertising, etc.

For more information about how people can protect their vehicles from auto crime, visit the Auto Crime Section of


Project No Free Ride

  • Project No Free Ride is designed to enhance existing law enforcement and ICBC auto theft programs, and act as a powerful deterrent against future auto theft.

  • The project is focused on recovering auto theft claims costs from thieves and their passengers through civil litigation.

  • Project No Free Ride is modelled after a similar program started in 2001 by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) that has been successful in generating revenue and has received strong public support.

  • Currently, ICBC has procedures in place to collect losses from those convicted criminally of auto theft or possession of stolen property. But not all people stealing vehicles are necessarily charged and/or convicted criminally.

  • This new initiative is mainly targeted at those who have not been charged and/or received a criminal conviction. This will mean ICBC can pursue cost recovery from a much larger group of people.

  • In order to generate deterrence and help reduce auto theft rates, Project No Free Ride will put previously convicted auto thieves on notice and send letters warning that, from here on, ICBC will seek full recovery from all adults and juveniles, regardless of whether or not charges are laid.

  • After ICBC obtains a judgment against an auto thief, and if the judgment remains unpaid, ICBC has statutory powers under section 30.1(2) to refuse to issue or cancel both driver’s license and insurance.

  • A civil judgment remains in effect for 20 years, and ICBC’s collection department has the option of taking collections, proceeding, or simply waiting and enforcing the remedies provided under section 30.1(2) of the Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Act.

  • ICBC and the police have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that allows police to share auto theft offender information with ICBC. This will begin as a pilot project involving IMPACT, the Richmond RCMP, and New Westminster Police Department.

  • In addition, ICBC is taking civil action to recover more than $2 million in claims costs from the “top” convicted auto thieves.

About ICBC

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is a provincial Crown corporation established in 1973 to provide universal auto insurance to BC motorists. In addition, the Corporation is responsible for driver licensing, vehicle registration and licensing. For more information, go to