Calgary

Soaring vehicle thefts in Calgary drive police to devote more officers to crackdown

Calgary police are shifting more officers to deal with stolen vehicles after the number of such thefts jumped by 13 per cent over last year and nearly 50 per cent in five years.

Vehicle thefts have skyrocketed by nearly 50% in 5 years

Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Jodi Gach says the force wants to crack down on soaring vehicle thefts by shifting more officers to tackle the problem. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Calgary police are shifting more officers to deal with stolen vehicles after the number of such thefts jumped by 13 per cent over last year and nearly 50 per cent in five years.

Police announced a new initiative Thursday, saying they will shift the focus of several of their property crime investigators in order to step up efforts to quell what has become a rising tide of vehicle thefts in the city.

It's all in response to the first six months of 2017, which saw 2,998 vehicles stolen.

It's an increase of 13 per cent over the corresponding period in 2016 — and a 48 per cent rise over the five-year average.

Those numbers have been mitigated somewhat lately, by decreases of nine per cent in June and six per cent in July.

Investigators shifted from other property crimes

Staff Sgt. Jodi Gach, from the CPS Investigative Operations Section, said the police will shift investigators from other District Operations Teams (DOTs) — who usually investigate other property crimes such as break-and-enters — into stolen vehicle investigations.

At a press conference, Gach said there were generally two sorts of motivations behind most vehicle thefts.

One is economic, where they hope to make money off the stolen vehicle.

The second is to use the vehicle to commit collateral crimes, many of which are committed by "addicted individuals."

Focusing on 'prolific offenders'

"What we like to focus on are the prolific offenders," Gach said. "If we focus on those prolific offenders … we're going to have a better impact on it [vehicle theft]."

As far as where those 19 vehicles daily are being stolen, Gach said no neighbourhood is off-limits.

"It's not isolated to any one area of the city," she said. "It's everywhere."

Vehicle thieves tend to rely upon traditional methods, she said.

"A large percentage of the cars stolen are because [the thieves] have access to keys," Gach said. "If we could protect keys, we would see a huge decline in stolen vehicles."

The best approach to vehicles being stolen is to prevent them from ever slipping into the hands of someone else, Gach said.

"As part of our plan of aligning resources, prevention is a huge component of it," she said.

"If we could ask all citizens to treat their keys like that is their vehicle — essentially without the keys, they're very difficult to take."

Monty Kruger, CBC News

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