Police are warning that thieves are taking advantage of vehicles being left unattended for longer than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
April is Auto Theft Enforcement Month and, according to Nanaimo RCMP, theft from vehicles and thefts of vehicles have increased as people stay home to practise self-isolation.
According to statistics from Nanaimo RCMP, police dealt with 193 incidents of theft under $5,000 from automobiles throughout March of this year compared 141 files during March 2019.
“The trend in March is obviously indicative of the pandemic precautions but thankfully there was a slowing down in the last week of March,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, in an e-mail.
Criminals continue to target vehicles for smartphones, personal electronics, sunglasses and cash. There is also a larger concern with items such as garage door openers and wallets left in vehicles, which can lead to break-and-enters and personal identity theft issues.
The Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia are addressing and bringing awareness to auto crime that brings financial and personal hardship to it victims.
IMPACT is promoting the acronym THINK to serves as a reminder of steps vehicle owners can take to help reduce and mitigate thefts of and from vehicles: Take valuables from your vehicle; hide valuables out of plain sight; immobilize your vehicle; never leave your vehicle idling unattended; keep track of your keys.
RCMP offered a few other reminders they say can help to dramatically reduce incidents of auto theft. Vehicle owners should practise the 9 p.m. routine, taking a few moments to lock vehicles and remove all valuables. Even loose change can be enough to entice a criminal, police say.
Lastly, anyone who sees suspicious activity is asked to report it immediately to the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345.