Enforcement team with IMPACT takes down a suspected car thief.

Auto thefts plunge in era of bait cars

78 per cent drop in vehicle thefts in Lower Mainland since 2003

Slideshow of IMPACT’s top 10 most wanted car thieves

Car thefts in the Lower Mainland have fallen 78 per cent in the past decade and police are crediting the bait car program for much of that drop.

The latest statistics show an eight per cent drop from 5,200 vehicles stolen in the region in 2012 to 4,700 last year.

In contrast, more than 21,000 cars were stolen in 2003, a year before the first use in B.C. of vehicles implanted with cameras and technology to safely disable them as officers converge to catch thieves red-handed.

ICBC road safety director John Dickinson said the payoff in reduced auto insurance claims has been dramatic.

ICBC handled $98 million in stolen auto claims in 2003, when an average of 70 cars were stolen every day in B.C.

By 2013 that had dropped to $27 million claims, or 17 stolen vehicles per day.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said the number of vehicles not stolen last year – compared to 2003 – was equivalent to filling B.C.’s largest ferry with vehicles 40 times over.

The single biggest 10-year decreases in car theft have been recorded in Coquitlam (down 88 per cent from 2003), White Rock (down 87 per cent) and Burnaby and New Westminster (both down 86 per cent.)

The bait car program, run by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) has since expanded to include boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, trailers and other “bait property.”

Thefts from auto have also declined about 68 per cent in B.C. over the last decade.

Insp. Peter Jadis, the head of IMPACT, said the team’s officers are now targeting larger scale auto rings that are running chop shops and in some cases simply stealing cars for the value of the metal.

That’s a shift from past years where thieves were often out to joy ride or commit break-and-enters using stolen vehicles.

“A car can be reduced to $200 to $300 worth of recycled metal,” Jadis said.  “That’s something fairly new we’re seeing.”

Police say the items most often stolen from vehicles are: smartphones; other personal electronics like tablets, laptops and GPS units; work tools; credit cards and identification; stereo equipment; cash and change; car parts and accessories; garage door openers; sunglasses; and keys.

Thieves who snatch garage door openers from a vehicle and get the home address from the vehicle registration continues to be a concern.

Keys stolen from clothing in gyms and rec centres are also a way thieves can get into cars and bypass immobilizers.

The most frequently stolen vehicles in Metro Vancouver last year were older model Honda Civics or Accords and Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Caravan/Voyageurs. Ford F-series pickup trucks (2005-2006) were among the most targeted vehicles in the Fraser Valley, behind 1998-2000 Honda Civics.

Police also issued a new annual list of top 10 most wanted car thieves in B.C. Friday – view slideshow of them above.

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