Car thefts in Abbotsford have dropped 84 per cent in the last 10 years and vehicle break-ins have decreased 83 per cent, according to statistics released last week.
The stats were released by the provincial government, the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) and ICBC as part of Auto Crime Enforcement Month.
They compare the number of auto-crime incidents from 2003 to 2013, showing major declines across the Lower Mainland, with much of the credit for the drop going to the bait car program.
The numbers also indicate that a few communities, including Abbotsford, saw an increase in incidents from 2012 to 2013, which could be the result of a few active thieves, according to ICBC. In this city, there were 11 per cent more vehicle thefts and 10 per cent more break-ins during that period, but overall auto-crime trends have been decreasing over the years.
This mimics the trend across the province, where vehicle thefts dropped 75 per cent and theft from vehicles declined 68 per cent from 2003 to 2013.
More than 21,000 cars were stolen in the Lower Mainland in 2003, a year before the first use in B.C. of bait cars – vehicles implanted with cameras and technology to safely disable them as officers converge to catch thieves red-handed.
That number had dropped 78 per cent by 2013.
ICBC road safety director John Dickinson said the payoff in reduced auto insurance claims has been dramatic.
ICBC handled $98 million in stolen auto claims in 2003, when an average of 70 cars were stolen every day in B.C. By 2013 that had dropped to $27 million in claims, or 17 stolen vehicles per day.
The single biggest 10-year decreases in car theft have been recorded in Coquitlam (down 88 per cent from 2003), White Rock (down 87 per cent) and Burnaby and New Westminster (both down 86 per cent.)
The bait car program, run by IMPACT, has since expanded to include boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, trailers and other property.
Insp. Peter Jadis, the head of IMPACT, said the team’s officers are now targeting larger scale auto rings that are running chop shops and, in some cases, simply stealing cars for the value of the metal.
Police say the items most often stolen from vehicles are: smartphones; other personal electronics like tablets, laptops and GPS units; work tools; credit cards and identification; stereo equipment; cash and change; car parts and accessories; garage door openers; sunglasses; and keys.
Ford F-series pickup trucks (2005-2006) were among the most targeted vehicles in the Fraser Valley, behind 1998-2000 Honda Civics.
– with files from Vikki Hopes