Prolific offenders who have gone underground has led to a drop in vehicle theft and automobile break-ins in Penticton.
“I know we have some prolific offenders that have been targeted by our community safety team, and with those prolific offenders either being incarcerated and/or being on the run, or currently at large, they are remaining very low-profile right now. I think that plays into the part of the reduction we have seen here,” said Cpl. Ted Manchulenko.
According to ICBC and the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), there were five per cent fewer vehicle theft incidents and 24 per cent fewer break-ins in 2011 compared to 2010. Manchulenko said Penticton’s Citizens On Patrol has been a factor in helping RCMP keep auto crime down.
“They play a big role for us, especially on the weekends because it’s another two to six sets of eyes that report events to us. They have that sixth sense that gives them a better idea that something is going to happen here or something is happening here that the police need to be aware of very quickly. It is definitely a program that has paid off for us,” said Manchulenko.
Since the bait car program was introduced in 2003, there were 34 per cent fewer vehicle thefts and 69 per cent fewer break-ins in Penticton. Manchulenko said the bait car program has been very effective, especially because it can be any number of makes or models of vehicles. In February, a trio of teens were arrested after activating a bait car in Penticton near the downtown core. An on-board camera helped clearly identify the culprits.
“If you are going to steal a vehicle in Penticton, you are going to be looking twice over your shoulder,” said Manchulenko.
Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said the Penticton crime analyst noted that in the past couple of weeks auto crime hasn’t been that active. He also attributes the bait car program and the RCMP community safety team working on apprehending prolific offenders.
“We had some individuals that we know are prolific car thieves in town and they were quite active, so we were losing cars on a continual basis. They would steal one car, go commit a crime, steal another one — or go for a joy-ride,” said Dellebuur.
Most auto crime suspects are opportunists, said Dellebuur, and the thieves have very little respect for the property they steal.
“The big concern is these people that steal the vehicles have no respect for stopping or obeying traffic rules. If we see one and go to stop it, nine times out of 10 they are going to run and we have to be very cognizant of safety for everyone. Quite often we have to let them go … a lot of these car thieves know that too. Ultimately, you don’t want to hurt a member of the public for someone’s property,” said Dellebuur.
ICBC said customers who have installed immobilizers and anti-theft devices are doing their part to reduce auto crime. They also suggest parking in secure, well-lit areas, removing valuables, always locking the vehicle and keeping keys in a safe place to deter thefts.