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Area vehicle thefts rose again after recent drop

Eighty-three per cent increase in stolen vehicles in Olds so far in 2019
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RCMP officers patrolled Cochrane High School May 10, the day after a threatening message directed at a student was discovered in one of the school's bathrooms. File photo/Rocky View Publishing

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Although they dropped in one year, vehicle thefts are on the rise again in Olds and Sundre.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim MacDonald said as of Nov. 1, 86 vehicles had been stolen in Olds so far this year, an 83 per cent increase from the same period last year when 47 vehicles were stolen.

In fact, vehicle thefts were up 280 per cent in the third quarter (July 1-Sept. 30) of 2019 compared to the third quarter of 2018.

During that period, 38 stolen vehicles were reported, compared to 10 in the third quarter of 2018.

In 2017, a total of 101 vehicles were stolen in Olds.

“It’s an uphill battle,” MacDonald said.

In Bowden, 20 vehicle thefts or attempted thefts have occurred since Jan. 1. MacDonald said. that's "only a very slight decrease" from both 2017 and 2018 statistics. 

In Sundre, as of Nov. 27, 43 vehicles had been stolen, up from 29 in 2018 when crime reduction units were introduced, but down from 2017 when 60 vehicles were stolen in Sundre.

"That was a very busy year," Cpl. Joe Mandel of Sundre RCMP said.

Mandel and MacDonald both told reporters that the vehicles are often stolen by thieves from out of town who use them in crimes elsewhere – often in the Red Deer or Calgary areas.

Mandel cited the example of a recent incident in Sundre where a stolen truck was used to smash through the doors at IGA before getting ditched north of town.

"That's a prime example of what these guys will do," he said.

Thieves look for vehicles that are easy to steal and for items visible in those vehicles that can quickly be pawned elsewhere or sold online for cash.

“It could be pocket change, it could be a stereo system, it could be a GPS. They’re looking for anything they can get some money for,” MacDonald said. 

The need to pay for drugs is often a motivating factor.

“Although there are many reasons that people commit these crimes —including mental health or financial issues — much of this activity is tied into drug dependancy and the need to finance that dependency to purchase drugs and pay off drug dealers,” MacDonald wrote in an email.

“As the larger hub communities typically have much greater numbers of illicit drug users, we see the spill over of crime in our nearby rural areas and towns.

“The use of methamphetamine has been reported to be on the rise in those hub communities and this would certainly have an impact on the levels of property crime.

“Of course, there are also those criminals that are just bad and lazy,” MacDonald added.

He also pointed out that while many criminals come into the community from out of town, there are several local thieves as well.

Mandel said thieves will typically coordinate their efforts, with, for example, a driver dropping someone off who then prowls around checking for unlocked vehicles to steal unsecured valuables. After completing their rounds, the driver picks them up and leaves the area.

Mandel and MacDonald said residents can make it harder for thieves to steal their vehicles by parking them in secure, well-lit locations, locking them, taking keys with them instead of leaving them in the ignition and not leaving them running – even in a garage.

They said putting The Club on the steering wheel can also deter thieves.

“But at the end of the day, sometimes people take all those steps and criminals are crafty and still are able to steal their vehicles,” MacDonald said.

- With files from Sundre Roundup editor Simon Ducatel.


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