Police hit brakes on responding to theft from vehicles

Out of 744 theft from vehicle calls last year only three charges were laid

They want you to still call it in, but don’t expect police to come blazing lights and sirens if you have something stolen from your vehicle.

Ted De Jager, detachment commander for the South Okanagan-Similkameen Regional RCMP detachment, said starting late this spring officers will most likely not be responding to theft from vehicles. The news was given to Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen directors Thursday as De Jager provided fourth quarter crime statistics.

The decision, despite there being an 11 per cent increase of theft from vehicles in the region in the same time period in 2016, is part of a plan to achieve 2018 priorities including reducing violent and focusing on more severe property crime. The total calls for service in 2017 at all detachments across the region was 1,008.

“In Penticton alone, theft from vehicle accounts for almost five per cent of the entire calls for service and when we expand that to the whole regional area that is a significant number. It’s one of those things. We had 744 thefts from vehicles in Penticton and we charged three people,” he said. “There’s simply no evidence, it’s that quick. Open the door, take the iPad, take the laptop, take the purse, close the door and walkaway. That’s how fast it happens, and it’s virtually impossible to charge.”

De Jager told the Western News after his presentation that the RCMP plan to hold a public education campaign soon similar to the Lock it or Lose it program, which emphasizes to residents it’s their responsibility to remove valuables from their vehicles. Once the campaign is complete and depending on call volumes police will most likely cease responding.

“We call it differential call response. As the files, particularly violent crime or higher level property crime, goes up, lower level property crime gets less response, so to the point that we will probably not be responding to theft from vehicles anywhere with an emergency vehicle. But we will be taking the call over the phone and giving a file number for insurance purposes, so that is a better response to that and that will, in turn, allow us to patrol more.”

Just over 34,000 calls for service were logged across the region in 2017.

Auto theft spiked 13 per cent across the region over last year for a total of 445 calls received.

“Auto theft is something that we’ve seen a spike on in every community and that is something associated to a very small group of people that we’re targeting. Again, we get them into the Okanagan Correctional Centre or to a different centre, and when they’re in, the auto theft goes down, and when they come out, auto theft goes up. So it’s a matter of targeting those particular people that are doing that,” he said.

De Jager said auto theft was closely related to break-and-enters throughout the region, which also saw a 37 per cent increase in 2017.

“And that can be attributed to a very small group of people that our Targeted Enforcement Unit has been going after. So very prolific. It started in West Kelowna, they moved through Summerland, hit Penticton, took up residence in Okanagan Falls and Oliver and then hit all the way through to Princeton and Keremeos stealing F250 and F350s,” he said.

De Jager said a ring thieves was busted in Christmas using some “old fashioned” police work.

“One of our junior members saw someone on the side of the road saying ‘she doesn’t belong here in Naramata,’ actually is where she was picked up and that led to the arrest of this entire group,” he said. “So it was some pretty heads-up policing.”

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