Lake Country car thefts ‘crime of opportunity’

The district has seen a spike of vehicle thefts in the last year

While the number of vehicle thefts in Lake Country has increased dramatically over the past year, a Lake Country police officer says a third of the thefts are crimes of opportunity.

Vehicle thefts spiked in 2018, as 40 incidents were reported. In 2017, 17 were reported and in 2016, 18 were recorded, according to a Lake Country RCMP report that was presented to council Tuesday night, Feb. 5.

“Of those 40 stolen cars we had occur in our detachment area, 37 per cent of them were left insecure, with the keys left inside the vehicle, or in a vehicle on a property that was also insecure,” said Cameron Holloway, with the RCMP detachment.

“Realistically, one in three of those are crimes of opportunity,” he said. “In some of those incidents, the keys were obtained when they broke into the residences and found (them.)”

READ MORE: Number of vehicles stolen in Lake Country doubles since past year

Thefts from vehicles have also increased in the last year, but incidents in 2018 were less than in 2016. In 2016, 128 incidents were reported, 107 were reported in 2017 and 123 were reported in 2018, the report said.

“People are just not locking their doors, again it’s a crime of opportunity,” Holloway said. “They have a term for it, it’s called car shopping.”

The hardest area hit was The Lakes area, as it’s the densest community in Lake Country, he said.

Coun. Cara Reed asked if there was a program or plan in place to mitigate risks of thefts in the area.

Holloway said the Kelowna RCMP detachment puts out media releases each year about unsecured vehicles, and when incidents are reported, police are quick to provide suggestions and give advice on how to avoid theft.

Property offences also saw an increase in 2018. They were the main reported offence in the district last year. In 2018, 74 more offences were reported than in 2017. 2016 saw the highest number of property related offences with 491 recorded.

Break and enters to both residences and business also increased last year over 2017—by eight offences for residences and by 16 business-related break and enters. In 2016, 36 residential break and enters were reported and 21 occurred at businesses. 2018 saw the highest number of break and enter incidents in businesses in the last three years.

READ MORE: Thieves target Lake Country thrift stores over Christmas break

Seventy-five per cent of all criminal code cases the Lake Country detachment receives are property-related offences, said Holloway. “It probably has to do with the development going on at Lakestone. Anything under construction even if it’s a residence that’s not inhabited is considered a break and enter to a business.”

A number of sites were burglarized and tools and equipment were stolen, he said.

While collision and impaired driving offences also increased in 2018, the numbers were less than in 2016. Twenty-four accidents with injuries were reported last year, 22 in 2017 and 28 two years ago. For impaired driving accidents, nine happened in 2018, seven in 2017 and 14 in 2016.

Controlled drug and substance act offences were down in 2018, with 20 incidents, compared to 27 in 2017 and 25 in 2016.

Coun. Cara Reed asked if cannabis legalization has affected the number of arrests made of drivers under the influence.

“We haven’t seen an increase in calls related to that, smoking or anything,” Holloway said.

Violence in relationship offence numbers was also down slightly last year, with 26 reported, compared to from 28 in 2017 and 27 in 2016 had 27 offences.

Overall service calls to the Lake Country detachment has decreased in the last three years. In 2016, 3,871 calls were reported, in 2017 there were 3,825 and in 2018 there were 3,786.

“People who were incarcerated probably got out in 2018, which we’ve seen start doing their business again, it’s cyclical, especially when you see how our numbers in 2016 were higher than they were in 2017, they dropped in 2018,” Holloway said.

With Lake Country’s location, the municipality “falls prey” to offenders from Vernon and Kelowna, he said. “We’ve tracked suspects to both communities.”

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carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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