Car prowlings spike to 20-year high in Calgary

Calgary police are trying to put their finger on why car prowlings and other property crimes are up — whether there are more criminals in town, more drug-related problems, or just a change in criminal behaviour.

Police believe much of the crime is drug-addiction related

Criminals targeted this vehicle, smashing the side window and grabbing a purse inside while it was parked at Nose Hill Park. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

The rate of thefts from vehicles is higher now than it has been since police started keeping statistics, which is about 20 years ago, says Calgary police Insp. Keith Cain.

"It seems to be a number of factors that are contributing to this very concerning phase that we are going through, or trend that we're seeing, " says Cain.

That trend not only includes thefts from vehicles — or car prowlings as they are also known — but other related crimes including vehicle thefts, or break and enter into garages, or homes, once the criminal has the garage door opener.

All of these types of crimes are up 50 per cent over last year.

"All of this I suppose, education of the criminals, of them moving up the food chain, has resulted in a huge increase in all these offences," Cain said.

Window repairs 'busier than ever'

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It's keeping auto glass shops busy around Calgary. CalAlta Auto Glass customer service representative Kary Heikoop says she has been getting one or two related calls every day.

"I'm surprised at the fact of how often, people are coming in and and every time, I usually ask what happened to the windshield so we can understand, and constantly, vandalism — somebody broke into it, smashed it," said Heikoop.

Jake Franklin, a technician with Dynasty Auto Glass, wonders if this year's increase is connected to the economic downturn. 

"There's a lot of really desperate people out there and there's a little bit everywhere, that if they can find it they'll grab it."

No proof it's downturn-related

Cain says police don't have information yet to show there's a direct correlation between the increase in crime and the downturn.

He says there's a wide range of people committing these crimes, but statistically, they're mostly adults who are trying to fuel their drug addictions. 

And it's happening all over the city. That's why police will be launching a city-wide home-protection blitz that will see flyers delivered face to face to someone in the home.

The flyers provide some reminders on how to keep you, your vehicle and your home safe, Cain says.

"There should never be anything of value that's visible. If it's visible, the criminal may decide that it's worth their while to smash and do $200 or $300 or $400 in property damage to grab something that may only be worth $5 or $10 from your vehicle," he said.

Cain says you also shouldn't leave keys or a garage door opener in the vehicle. And you should ensure the door from the garage to the home is kept locked.