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Police helicopter video shows thefts in progress from parked vehicles in York Region

York Regional Police have released video taken from a police helicopter in late October that shows men targeting vehicles in Richmond Hill, opening doors and stealing valuables inside.

Lock vehicle doors, York Regional Police tell residents as Crime Prevention Month begins

York Regional Police have released video taken from a police helicopter in late October that shows men targeting vehicles in Richmond Hill, opening doors and stealing valuables inside. (York Regional Police)

York Regional Police have released video taken from a police helicopter in late October that shows men ransacking vehicles in Richmond Hill.

The video, taken by a helicopter nicknamed Air2, shows men getting out of two vehicles, running over to vehicles parked in front of large homes, trying to open doors, and when successful, entering the vehicles and stealing valuables inside.

Const. Andy Pattenden said police have released the video at the start of Crime Prevention Month in York Region to show that unlocked vehicles are being targeted and it is easy for thefts from parked vehicles to happen, but residents can take steps to make their homes and vehicles less attractive to thieves.

Locking vehicle doors is a good first step, he said. 

"As you can see in the video, [police] were able to spot two vehicles, one of which was a Land Rover and the other one was Dodge Caravan," Pattenden said.

"What's interesting about this video is that there are a number of suspects in each of those vehicles. They jump out of the cars and go basically very quickly through the neighbourhood, checking for open and unlocked car doors. We've seen a number of these type of thefts."

This one stood out to police in particular, he said, because there was quite a number of people and it looked quite "well organized."

Police were called to the area for a report of suspicious activity on October 22 at 3:28 a.m. Pattenden said one man was arrested that night, others were arrested later, and charges are pending. The investigation is ongoing.

He said officers in the aircraft directed officers on the ground to the two vehicles transporting the thieves. 
A closeup from a police helicopter video of a theft in progress from a parked vehicle in Richmond Hill in late October. (York Regional Police)

'Keep your lights on'

David McBeth, a Markham resident, said there have been five break-ins, one attempted break-in and two thefts of or from parked vehicles on his street, and five break-ins on neighbouring streets, since May 2016.

"I can tell you it is very upsetting when a resident has their home broken into," he said.

McBeth distributes crime statistics and crime map details through email to his neighbours weekly in his role as a police community liaison member. 

"Resident vigilance is one of the key things. Be aware of your neighbours. Know your neighbours. Talk to your neighbours. Keep your lights on," he said.

A York Regional Police officer rings a doorbell in Markham at the start of Crime Prevention Month. Officers are handing out lightbulbs so that homeowners will replace their exterior lights with new lights to increase visibility at night. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

'You have to be careful about everything, right?'

Hassam Kas, another area resident, said the windows and doors of his home are connected to a security alarm. He said the rash of break-ins in the area concern him, but someone is at home all the time.

"In this day and age, you have to be careful about everything, right? You never know who is going to come in and what is going to happen to you."

​On Monday, police launched Crime Prevention Month by going door to door in York Region to hand out around 15,000 lightbulbs in residential areas.

The idea is to have homeowners replace their outdoor lights with new ones to increase visibility at night.

York Regional Police talk to Markham resident Hassam Kas about ways to prevent his home from being broken into. Police went door to door as part of the kickoff to Crime Prevention Month in York Region. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Police recommend that residents do the following to prevent crime:

  • Maintain lawns and shrubs and clear snow from driveways to make homes look lived in
  • Keep all doors locked, including the door that leads from the garage interior into the home
  • Consider installing a security system that includes cameras
  • Keep windows locked and use a screw or block to ensure they can't be lifted or opened
  • Don't keep valuables in the master bedroom because that is the first place thieves look
  • Leave front lights on at night, and when not home, put them on a timer