Big jump in auto thefts prompts steering lock giveaway by ICBC

Vehicle thefts were up by 80 percent in West Kelowna in first six months of 2012.

ICBC road safety co-orodinator Christine Silver shows Transportation Minister Mary Polak how a steering lock works during a news conference in Rutland Tuesday to announce a 200-lock giveaway by ICBC.

ICBC is teaming up with the the Kelowna RCMP and local crime prevention volunteers to give away 200 free steering locks here in a bid to curb an increase in stolen vehicles.

According to the insurance corporation, while overall auto crime in B.C. is on the decline, vehicle thefts increased by three per cent in Kelowna and a whopping 80 per cent in West Kelowna in the first six months of 2012, compared to 2011. Break-ins also rose by 36 per cent in Kelowna and 47 per cent in West Kelowna during the first six months of 2012 compared to 2011.

“We were way up and then way down and now its up again,” said local RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon about the surprising jump in the number of vehicle thefts here.

He said much of the increase can be blamed on a few prolific offenders, some of whom the police have caught in recent months.

On Tuesday, with Transportation Minister Mary Polak on hand, ICBC officials demonstrated how easy steering locks are to use and said because pre-2001 models are most commonly stolen, the first 200 people who own pre-2001 cars and trucks will be given the free locks. Community police volunteers will provide the free steering wheel locks, while supplies last, to local residents who own two targeted models, as well as other pre-2001 vehicles that are not already equipped with an anti-theft devices. Residents can obtain a steering wheel lock by bringing their vehicle registration to claim the police offices to:

• The Mission community policing office at 4065 Lakeshore Drive in Kelowna

• The Rutland community policing office at 115 McIntosh Road in Kelowna

• The West Kelowna RCMP Detachment at 2390 Dobin Road in West Kelowna.

The most common vehicles targeted by thieves in Kelowna and West Kelowna have been pre-2001 Honda Civics and pre-2008 Ford and Dodge pickup trucks, according to ICBC.

“We want everyone to have a safe and happy Christmas season with their families, and to avoid the unnecessary stress of auto theft, especially at this time of year,” said Polak, who was given a demonstation of how the locks work. “This means remembering to have a good anti-theft device on your vehicle, and locking up your valuables, especially if you’ve done some holiday shopping. ICBC’s Operation Lock Up is a great campaign which reminds drivers to be proactive and protect their vehicles from getting stolen.”

In addition to the Kelonwa area, there are five other across B.C. where there will be similar giveaways.

Polak said the $3,000 cost of the steering locks is substantially lower than the amount the insurance company has to pay out for stolen vehicles.

“Steering wheel locks are one of the most effective tools to use as a deterrent for car thieves,” said Const. Kris Clark, Kelowna RCMP media relations officer. “We’re continuing to bring down auto theft rates, but older model vehicles are still being targeted.”

In addition to using an anti-theft device, you can protect yourself from auto crime by parking in secure, well lit areas, removing valuables from your vehicle, always locking your vehicle and keeping your keys in a safe place.



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