photo: Mehmet Hilmi Barcin/iStock

Why You Should Lock Your Vehicle—Or Risk Losing It

By AMA Staff

In 2017, more than 24,800 vehicles were stolen in Alberta. That’s 68 cars, trucks and SUVs taken every day. Police across the province have also reported a surge in vehicle-related break-ins.

The good news is that these are often crimes of opportunity, which means they’re preventable. Earlier this year, AMA launched the Lock It or Lose It campaign, advising Albertans to lock their vehicle doors and hide their stuff. “The rate of vehicle theft in Alberta is staggering,” says Jeff Kasbrick, AMA’s vice-president of government and stakeholder relations. “But there’s a lot we can do to prevent it.”

A recent AMA survey revealed that 10 percent of members have left their vehicles unlocked and 11 percent have left them running while unattended. One-third have left valuables visible in their cars. “Unlocked doors and keys in the ignition are open invitations to steal your vehicle,” Kasbrick says. “Lock It or Lose It is a reminder to take simple steps to curb vehicle theft and take away the welcome mat for thieves.”

Far too often, auto theft is committed by people who want to undertake further crimes. “It’s very common for people to steal vehicles for the purpose of using them for all kinds of different crimes,” says Staff Sergeant Jodi Gach of Calgary Police Service’s Investigative Operations Section. Among those crimes: robberies, break-and-enters, drug trafficking and sometimes just joyriding.

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Auto theft therefore becomes a threat to public safety. “When someone steals a car, quite often they have a complete disregard for the rules of the road,” Gach says. “They might run red lights, drive at life-threatening speeds and, in some instances, they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Having your car stolen is not only a major inconvenience for you, it also puts others at risk on the road: innocent drivers and pedestrians may get hit; public and private property could be damaged. And as insurance claims related to these crimes increase, so too will premiums for all drivers.

Criminals also target cars for the purpose of committing identity theft. They break in—or open an unlocked door—to take the purse left on the passenger seat, or registration documents from the glovebox. Calgary police see multiple daily vehicle break-ins in which identity documents or bank and credit cards are explicitly targeted.

“It’s still quite common for people to carry things like birth certificates or social insurance cards along with their banking cards,” says Staff Sergeant Cory Dayley of Calgary Police Service’s Cyber/Forensics Unit. “Combined with insurance or registration papers from the vehicle, it can help a criminal to put together a package that supports a false identity.” The thief could then redirect your mail and open up a bank account or secure loans in your name.

Get the facts about how auto insurance in Alberta works

Learn more about securing your vehicle:

Lock it or lose it: Always lock your doors, and never leave your vehicle running unattended.

Key to security: Be careful about where you keep your keys or fob. Unsecured gym lockers, for example, are prime theft targets.

Stopping power: Park in well-lit areas. When at home, if you park in a garage, keep it locked.

Nothing to see here: Store valuables out of sight. Don’t leave important documents in the glovebox.

Practice deterrence: Install an alarm if your vehicle doesn’t have one, or consider using a steering-wheel club.