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Victoria police see spike in thefts from vehicles, urge motorists to take precautions

Jul 19 2012
The parking lot at Mayfair mall has recently been a hot spot for vehicle break-ins, Victoria police say. 

The parking lot at Mayfair mall has recently been a hot spot for vehicle break-ins, Victoria police say.

Photograph by: Victoria Times Colonist , .

A spike in reports of thefts from automobiles has Victoria police warning motorists to lock up their vehicles and store valuables, including spare change, in a safe place.

Over the past three months, Victoria police have received 234 reports of thefts from autos, up from 87 in the three months prior.

Mayfair mall’s parking lot is one of many hot spots. Const. David Bratzer said police take the crime seriously and urge people to report all incidents of thefts from vehicles, as well as suspicious people hanging out near where cars are parked.

“We’re asking the public to help us reduce auto crime in our community,” said Bratzer, speaking to reporters near the mall’s parking lot.

Many of the thefts involve vehicles with out-of-province licence plates, said Victoria Police Department spokesman Mike Tucker.

“It may be a case of thieves being opportunistic and thinking there may be some luggage left behind or there may be cash or valuables,” said Tucker.

Ways to prevent theft from autos include making sure windows are rolled up and doors locked, said Bratzer.

“We have known thieves who walk down the street lifting up all the door handles of cars … waiting to find a vehicle that is unlocked, so they can break in and steal things.”

Thieves will smash a window to get to $3 to $4 in spare change that’s in view, said Bratzer, adding tourists should keep their belongings in their hotel rooms.

Spare change and electronics are popular targets.

“Laptops are always a popular item and it’s always a really frustrating experience to see someone get their entire briefcase stolen, and often laptops contain a lot of sensitive data,” said Bratzer, warning a theft from a vehicle can turn into identity theft and credit-card fraud.

“The best approach is not to leave anything in your vehicle, even if it is hidden away.”

Police urged victims to report all vehicle break-in incidents so officers can compile accurate statistics and look for patterns.

Crime Watch volunteer Ron Tinney helps Victoria police spread awareness about thefts from autos by patrolling parking lots and street parking where thefts can happen.

“We check to see if there’s any money lying around — [thieves] will break in for 50 cents,” said Tinney.

People should also be aware that a garage-door opener stolen from a car can help thieves gain access to a house while the resident is out shopping, Tinney said.

Anyone witnessing suspicious behaviour should call Victoria police at 250-995-7654.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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