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Okanagan publicity campaign hopes to reduce theft from cars

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It's not a ticket—this is the friendly reminder from the RCMP not to leave your vehicle unlocked and your belongings in view.
— image credit: Contributed

The Kelowna RCMP are asking drivers to lock up to prevent a crime of opportunity in hopes of saving the victims thousands and police even more.

Throughout the Central Okanagan, police are seeing everything from iPads to expensive electronics, wallets and purses left totally unprotected in unlocked vehicles—and this carelessness is fuelling a lucrative industry.

More than 1,800 vehicles in the area had items stolen in 2012, largely because these belongings were easy pickings.

"At least 70 per cent of target vehicles are unlocked…but we've seen it as high was 85 per cent," said Cnst. Kris Clark, Kelowna RCMP spokesperson.

The culprits are often youth and they're often drug-addicted, said Clark. But it isn't the perpetrators so much as the victims police are after.

Starting Monday, auxiliary officers will head to hot spots for this sort of crime—beaches and parks—to flag vehicles with information sheets that appear much like a ticket. The notices are orange in colour and ask people to lock their car and remove valuables, and will be placed on windshields.

It's hoped the warnings will catch drivers' attention enough to spur a change in behaviour and, at the very least, provide a clear warning about crime levels to those who may be vacationing from smaller communities where this form of crime is less prevalent.

"Thieves tend to work residential areas overnight, while targeting recreation and business parking lots during the day," said Clark, noting parkades are particularly vulnerable as they offer a lot of inventory, protected from prying eyes.

Any and all personal belongings left in a car are insured under homeowners insurance, not car insurance, according to Michelle Hargrave, senior communications specialist for ICBC. The insurance in an option within homeowner insurance packages and applies whether the car was left unlocked or not; although claims do affect a person's premiums.

One way members of the community are helping reduce the impact of this sort of petting crime is by volunteering. Anyone interesting in exploring volunteer opportunities with the RCMP are encouraged to visit one of the RCMP’s Community Policing Offices or contact Garth Letcher, community policing coordinator at 250-470-6339.

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