Lethbridge residents are urged to refrain from giving thieves the gift of opportunity by leaving valuables in their vehicles or leaving their vehicles unlocked.
Manager of Advocacy with the Alberta Motor Association Dominic Schamuhn says the message comes from the AMA and the Alberta RCMP, as Alberta has the second highest rate of auto thefts and theft from auto vehicles in the country. According to Schamuhn, as long as it takes you to put something in your vehicle, that is how quick it takes for someone to take the item out of the vehicle or the vehicle itself.
“A thief will act as quick as they can, so it is important for us to make sure that we are staying vigilant, that we are locking our vehicles, we are hiding our stuff, and we are not leaving our vehicles running,” Schamuhn says.”It is a crime of opportunity, so unfortunately, too many people are leaving valuables in site, leaving their vehicles unlocked, and just taking the chance to act on that.”
According to the AMA and the RCMP, the best practice is to lock the vehicle and never leave the vehicle unattended when running. Schamuhn says during the holiday season, many people may be running errands and unable to take valuables inside with them. In those cases, residents are told to hide valuables by moving them to their trunks or putting them under something.
“A valuable is anything that a thief might look at and think has some value to it. It could be as simple as loose change, it could be a pair of sunglasses that you leave in your vehicle, it could also be a gym bag, or your shopping bags.”
In cases with bags, whether it be shopping or otherwise, he says thieves don’t even know what they are taking; it is the bag that catches their eye.
“We don’t want folks to have a bad holiday season; we don’t want them to start the holiday season with a theft happening because we know that there are consequences beyond just the theft as well. There is the hassle of having to deal with it; you have to replace it, and you now have to pay for it again.”
Schamuhn adds along with being sure to protect valuables, drivers are also advised to keep their vehicle insurance and registration either with them or hidden. He says while these documents can be an adventure to replace, they do have information on them that opens the door to identity theft.
In 2022, Lethbridge reported 373 vehicle thefts, 23 more than in 2021. Also, in 2022, 1,332 thefts from motor vehicles worth $5,000 or less were reported in the city, down from the 1,515 reported the previous year.