Knowing and abiding by the rules of the road is the best way we know to minimize the not inconsiderable risks of driving. But there are other risks to being a car driver or owner, including being the potential victim of car thieves and vandals, that are not for the most part, addressed by legislation. Avoiding car theft is largely a matter of common sense, complimented by recent major improvements in anti-theft technology.
Car theft has for many years been rampant in BC. ICBC’s brochure on anti-theft devices claims that, “Over the past decade, ICBC has paid out more than $1 billion for auto crime claims.” An article in The Province newspaper in November 2003 referred to Surrey as the car theft capital of North America averaging more than 20 car thefts a day. Car theft is usually purposeful. Luxury or “high-end” cars have enough market value to cover the cost and risk involved in re-selling them. But most car thefts, according to Const. Tim Shields, as quoted in The Province, “are committed to commit secondary crimes such as armed robbery, especially break and enters.”
Although the police and ICBC have instituted a number of initiatives to combat this crime wave including setting up an auto-theft task force, conducting joint surveillance with private security companies, setting up a bait-car program, and pursuing civil actions, they advise that the most effective deterrent is pro-activity by car owners.
ICBC has published a brochure entitled “Lock Out Auto Crime” that contains 10 tips or steps to “avoid the expense, time and frustration, caused by auto crime.” These tips, summarized, are as follows: lock your car whenever you leave it unattended—including when you are parking at home—and do not hide a spare key on the vehicle. Do not mark your key chain or tag with your license plate or home address. Don’t make your vehicle an easy target by leaving valuables exposed—many people have had their cars vandalized for the parking money left out in the built-in coin tray. Do not park in hidden, out-of-the-way parking spots. If your car is hidden, so are the thieves. Park where your vehicle is well lit, whether at home or out. If you park in an underground lot, watch out for and report people slipping inside as the gate is closing. Ask your Autoplan broker about the Combat Auto Theft (CAT) program, which includes a sticker that authorizes police to question anyone driving your vehicle between 1:00 am and 5:00 am. Engrave your BC driver’s license number on your vehicle equipment and install an anti-theft device such as a steering wheel locking bar, alarm, or electronic immobilizer. And finally, call the police immediately if you see “any suspicious person or activity near [your] vehicle.”
Fortunately, this topic is not all bad news: the latest statistics on vehicle theft reportedly are showing a 33% decline over the same week last year and a plummeting rate of vehicle break-ins. Presumably, heightened awareness of the problem and knowledge of avoidance tips has contributed to this promising trend. The trend should continue. Please drive safely, and park safely.