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When B.C. police hoped radio DJs could help them catch car thieves

The police needed more eyes on the street, which is why they were hoping to reach people behind the wheels of their cars.

In 1995, radio stations were broadcasting bulletins about stolen vehicles in the Vancouver area

Enlisting radio DJs in the fight against auto theft

27 years ago
Duration 2:07
In 1995, police in British Columbia were hoping local radio stations could help them crack down on auto theft.

The police needed more eyes on the street, which is why they were hoping to reach people behind the wheels of their cars.

In 1995, auto theft was a growing problem in British Columbia, as thieves were taking off with 14,000 vehicles each year — twice the total they had stolen just six years earlier.

It was a crime that was hard to curb, particularly when it was easy to steal a car.

That's why police looked to radio stations to help expand their available tips by getting DJs to read out descriptions of "hot cars," or stolen vehicles.

'A lot to choose from'

As of 1995, British Columbia was dealing with 14,000 cases of auto theft in a given year. (The National/CBC Archives)

"Police in Vancouver and the suburb of New Westminster got the idea from the Seattle police," the CBC's Ian Hanomansing told viewers on The National on May 6, 1995, as he explained the then week-old police strategy.

At that point, police were selecting and sharing the story of one stolen vehicle each day.

"They usually have a lot to choose from," Hanomansing said.

Vancouver police Det. Al Cox said authorities struggled to pinpoint the perpetrators in hot car cases.

"We try," he said, admitting it was hard to catch the crooks after the fact.

An ongoing problem for B.C.

The ease with which cars could be stolen was making it hard for police to curb the auto theft problem in the mid-1990s. (The National/CBC Archives)

Hanomansing explained that police hoped their media efforts would alert the public as to how big a problem auto theft was becoming in B.C. and perhaps deter would-be thieves.

"In the first six days of this radio campaign, tips from listeners have led police to the suspected thieves of two cars," he said.

But the problem wasn't going away: A year later, The National's Terry Milewski was also reporting on auto theft in British Columbia. He revealed the province had then seen another 14,000 thefts in just six months.

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