Auto theft in Mission and the Fraser Valley has dropped dramatically in 10 years, statistics that law enforcement and auto insurers attribute in part to the bait car program.
Statistics were provided by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT) to coincide with the celebration of the program’s 10th anniversary, as well as this year’s Auto Crime Enforcement Month in B.C.
A bait car is a vehicle owned by police and set as a trap to would-be thieves. When the vehicle is stolen, the location, speed and direction of travel are monitored by police dispatchers through GPS.
According to IMPACT, there were 35 per cent fewer cars stolen in Mission in 2011 compared to the previous year, a drop of 65 per cent since 2006. There has been a 71 per cent decline across B.C. since 2003.
Incidents of vehicle break-ins has also declined, with 36 per cent fewer break-ins in 2011 compared to the previous year.
Mission RCMP Insp. Richard Konarski said part of the reason is technology. As older cars are replaced by newer ones, fewer thieves have the technical know-how to hotwire them.
For those thieves who continue to target cars, the police utilize bait cars in areas that have a high frequency of opportunistic “commuter thieves.”
These kind of thieves “hang out with some friends and then they just kind of walk around the neighbourhood, perhaps find some older model cars, and say, ‘I’m too lazy, don’t have my own wheels, I’m a prohibited driver,’ and they just boost a car that will get them to where they have to go,” said Konarski.
That’s where police statistics help in understanding the pattern of car thieves, the types of cars being stolen, and figuring out the behaviour so they can stop them before they strike again.
Konarski recalled a thief during the 1980s who would regularly take a car in Maple Ridge and dump it when he arrived in Mission.
IMPACT also released a list of the most notorious car thieves in the Lower Mainland that includes Clint Warren Rose, a 35-year-old repeat car thief operating in both Mission and Abbotsford. Rose is wanted on several warrants for breach of recognizance and prohibited driving.
The other fugitives — men ranging from 21 to 43 years old — are from Surrey, Richmond, Langley, Penticton, Ridge Meadows, and New Westminster.
At a press conference last Thursday in Surrey, Attorney-General Shirley Bond said 77 of the 80 most-wanted car thieves have been caught in the last 10 years.
The number of stolen cars could drop even further, as Bond announced the bait car program has expanded to include commercial vehicles such as construction equipment and vans.
Konarski said some thieves in Mission have begun focusing on stealing ATVs and construction machinery. On March 6, police recovered over $500,000 worth of stolen equipment from a rural property in the 35000-block of Hartley Road.
But Konarski said the majority are commuter thieves.
“You can see how each offender uses a different type of vehicle,” he said, adding the type of vehicle that is stolen is a key part to profiling the behaviour of the criminal.
“Why this place, why this time and why this item? And the more you can think about that the more you can narrow down who you’re chasing after.”
Most stolen vehicles (Fraser Valley):
1. Honda Civic
2. Ford F-Series trucks
3. Honda Accord
4. Dodge Ram
5. Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager
6. Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra
7. Jeep (Grand) Cherokee
8. Acura Integra
9. Nissan Pathfinder
10. Toyota Camry/Solara.