With only five auto thefts in Whistler reported to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), 2013 marks a 10-year low for the resort, an 81-per-cent reduction from a decade ago when auto crime numbers in B.C. reached an all-time high.
There were 55 per cent fewer auto thefts in Whistler last year, with five compared to the 11 incidents reported in 2012. Nine auto thefts were reported in 2011, and 14 in Whistler's Olympic year, still well below the resort's 10-year high of 36 stolen vehicles reported in 2004.
The ICBC stats do differ from those collected by the Whistler RCMP, explained Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, putting the difference down to the number of thefts that are not reported to ICBC by tourists.
According to LeClair's most recent report to council, there were 22 vehicle thefts in Whistler in both 2012 and 2013.
He also reported 102 theft-from-vehicle incidents in the resort in 2012, and 105 in 2013. This is compared to 22 and 24 in 2012 and 2013, according to ICBC's data.
"Whistler's a very safe community to live in and visit, and vehicles are becoming more difficult to steal because of manufacturer's anti-theft technology," said Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, who pointed to the detachment's use of bait vehicles over the past several years as an effective tool for reducing auto crime.
"We still occasionally have a problem with theft from vehicles, but usually that's pretty isolated in Whistler, and it's usually one person or a group that is involved in doing that," he explained.
"Typically when we start getting a rash of vehicle break-ins, we're able to identify who the suspect is, make an arrest and lay charges."
On March 12, Whistler RCMP received reports that eight vehicles had been broken into overnight at an underground parkade on Blackcomb Way. The same day, police also received word that five more vehicles in Pemberton had been forcibly entered in the 7400 block of Frontier Street. The RCMP believes the rash of break-ins in both communities could be related.
Province-wide, vehicle thefts decreased nine per cent in 2013, and theft from vehicles declined 17 per cent in B.C., according to ICBC. Since the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) began operating in 2003, B.C. has seen a 75-per-cent reduction in vehicle thefts, and a 68-per-cent drop in theft from vehicles.
That year also marked the introduction of the bait car program in the province, now the largest of its kind in the world.
In December, law enforcement deployed bait snowmobiles in southeastern B.C., resulting in a large drop in stolen sleds, while four individuals were charged with possession of stolen property in relation to two separate thefts.
"Over the past decade, IMPACT has become a model of how you deter and reduce thefts of, and from, vehicles by being focused, strategic, adaptable, and consistently driving home the message that if you steal any type of bait vehicle, you're going to jail," said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton in a release. "The benefits of IMPACT to both road safety and peoples pocketbooks are clear and continue to grow."
In 2014, IMPACT investigators will devote more resources to targeted enforcement, according to ICBC, such as large-scale auto thefts by suspects running chop shops or doing vehicle cloning.
"A car can be reduced to $200-300 worth of recycled metal, and that's something fairly new that we're seeing," said Inspector Peter Jadis, head of IMPACT. "Ten years ago it may have been more joy riding, or break and enters with stolen vehicles. The policing environment is always changing."
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