Thieves breaking in to cars are actively preying on four Saanich neighbourhoods.
Residents reported 122 vehicle break-ins last month, a 60 per cent jump from the year before (80 in Jan. 2010).
Saanich police are concerned criminals are now smashing windows and breaking locks to gain entry — unlocked vehicles had been the primary targets previously.
“Typically these crimes are about forced entry, but that appears to have changed lately,” said Sgt. Dean Jantzen. “Yes, people are locking their (car) doors, but that’s not deterrent enough if there’s something of value left in your vehicle.”
The areas being targeted are the Tillicum/Burnside neighbourhood (around Tillicum Centre), the streets along Maplewood Road, the McKenzie/Quadra area and North Shelbourne around Elnido Road.
“We believe there’s more than one group at work here,” Jantzen said. “These offences occur generally around where one of these offenders live or frequents.”
Police believe the 122 reported crimes are just a fraction of the actual number of vehicles broken into. Many people don’t report these incidents because of a perceived hassle in reporting the crime — or nothing was taken, Jantzen said.
In early 2010, police saw a similar spike in thefts from autos.
By mid-February 2010 there had been 120 thefts from vehicles. By mid-June, there were 508 reported incidents, a 43 per cent jump from 355 in 2009.
At the time, police attributed that to the prevalence of electronic devices such as Bluetooth earpieces following the introduction of hands-free legislation on Jan. 1, 2010.
“You look through our lost property and you see Bluetooth after Bluetooth after visor Bluetooth after cell phone,” Jantzen said. “It’s tough to say whether the two (new legislation and spike in thefts from autos) are related.”
The best way to protect yourself is by leaving nothing in your car – no portable electronics, no loose change, no shopping bags, no purses or wallets.
“I feel like a broken record player putting out this advisory almost every week, but we’re reaching epidemic proportions,” Jantzen said.
Police will be deploying bait cars and other investigative tactics in different neighbourhoods to attempt to curb these incidents.
Anyone with information on any of the rashes of theft from autos are asked to call Saanich police at 250-475-4321.