Nfld. & Labrador

Rising car break-ins, smashed windows in St. John's have residents on edge

Wallace Organ of St. John's had his vehicle broken into twice over six weeks.

Report suspicious activity even if nothing is stolen from your vehicle, RNC says

Wallace Organ says his wallet was taken and he lost $800, as someone used the tap function on his credit and debit cards. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A spate of car break-ins around St. John's is causing unease and concern for people across the city, and keeping garages busy with repairs.

Wallace Organ is among those residents, having had his vehicle broken into twice over six weeks. The first time, his wallet was taken, and he lost $800 as someone used the tap function on his credit and debit cards. 

"It made me really uncomfortable," Organ told CBC News, saying he got in touch with his banks and was reimbursed his losses within a month.

For the second break-in, Organ was prepared, and whoever was responsible walked away from his car empty-handed.

"I learned my lesson the first time and didn't leave anything valuable in there," he said.

The pandemic added another layer of anxiety after he was broken into, Organ said, as he didn't know who had gotten into his vehicle or where they might have been.

"[I'm] very uneasy," he said. "It makes you very uncomfortable that you've been invaded, even when you're sleeping."

Wallace Organ had his vehicle broken into twice over six weeks, and had his wallet stolen. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Organ reported both incidents to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and is waiting back on a response to the second break-in from police.

Speedy Auto Glass on Pippy Place in St. John's has seen an increase in window repairs in recent months, many of them caused by break-ins, said its service centre manager.

Mark Maillett said in his 14 years of business, there have been sporadic upticks in vehicle vandalism.

"But I'd say within the last month we started to see it happen. Then progressively within the last two weeks, it's the busiest that I've seen it in a long time," Maillett told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"The majority of the damages are side glass. Some body damage, you know if vehicles are getting broken into, sometimes there is body damage to the vehicle that requires body work."

Report it: RNC

RNC Const. Michael Hoddinott said police are working to increase patrols in neighbourhoods where break-ins have been increasingly reported.

"Typically when you're talking about these crimes, you're talking about a crime of opportunity," Hoddinott said.

"Because that's the case, there's a number of measures that we can all take to decrease the likelihood of victimization."

RNC Const. Michael Hoddinott says police are working to increase police patrols in neighbourhoods where there has been an increase in the number of break-ins. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

He recommended keeping car doors locked when a vehicle is unattended, keeping valuables out of your car and parking in well-lit areas.

Hoddinott said police also encourage people to report any suspicious activity, such as a broken window, regardless if something is stolen from the vehicle.

"We do have success in investigating these kind of crimes," he said. 

"Oftentimes the report we get isn't a theft from a vehicle or damage to a vehicle, but suspicious activity. So we encourage all those reports.… It could result in deterring someone from committing a crime in the first place."

Organ echoed the points made by police, and won't be leaving valuable items around his car anymore.

"It will save you a headache in the future," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton and On The Go