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Police remind public to keep vehicles secure from thieves

Many thefts of, and from, vehicles are crimes of opportunity, so keep your car safe
Leaving a spare set of car keys in your vehicle’s centre console is an invitation to thieves. (Photo credit: RCMP)

A rash of vehicle thefts has prompted one RCMP detachment in B.C. to warn drivers about keeping their cars safe, to prevent your car from being targeted by thieves.

Williams Lake RCMP recently experienced a spike in vehicle thefts, responding to eight separate incidents in a four-day period. They have a few tips and best practises for drivers, to prevent both the theft of vehicles and thefts from vehicles.

- Lock your vehicle when you leave it anywhere, whether it’s in a mall parking lot or in your driveway. Many thefts of or from vehicles are crimes of opportunity; if a thief cannot easily get into your vehicle, because the doors are locked, they will often move on to an easier target.

- Do not leave any property in your vehicle, as it might not be there when you return. Thieves will break into a vehicle for as little as a few coins or a cigarette lighter, if they are left visible. Typical items stolen from vehicles include purses, wallets, credit cards, GPS units, passports, house keys, cash, clothing, and sunglasses.

- If you absolutely must leave items in your vehicle, secure them in the trunk if possible, or at least keep them out of sight. Don’t forget, however, that many thieves routinely check the glove box and under the seat for hidden items.

- Do not leave any personal identification in an unattended vehicle. This includes a driver’s licence, financial documents, credit/debit information, or any mail that could identify who you are, as all these items leave you vulnerable to becoming a victim of identity theft.

- If you have left a purse or wallet in your car, be sure to check it when you return. Thieves will often take identification cards or credit cards but leave the wallet or purse behind, so that the owner might not realize a theft has occurred until much later. Once armed with a few cards, thieves are then able to apply for and receive loans in your name, as well as additional credit cards and/or cash advances. If you don’t notice the theft for a number of days, the damage done could be extensive.

- With temperatures falling, drivers might be tempted to leave their vehicle running with the keys inside. If you want to warm up your vehicle and can’t do it remotely, stay inside the vehicle. If you are running quick errands, shut off your vehicle and take the keys with you.

- Do not keep spare keys to your vehicle inside the vehicle. Police see this happen all the time, and what could have been the theft of some change in a cupholder turns into the theft of a vehicle.

- Keep track of your car keys. Do not leave your purse, jacket, or backpack unattended, even when you’re at work. Thieves are always looking for unattended belongings. Lock up your items in a locker, or keep your keys in your pocket.

- If you have an automatic garage door, do not keep the opener in your vehicle alongside any identifying information (insurance documents, mail). This could result in leading would-be thieves directly to your residence if they obtain these items, and they can use the garage door opener to access your home.

- If you park your vehicle outside your home, consider installing security lights, to dissuade would-be thieves targeting your vehicle, its contents, or its catalytic converter.

- If you see any suspicious persons or activities near a vehicle, call the police immediately.