“MY SENSE OF SAFETY AND SECURITY, THAT’S PROBABLY THE BIGGEST THING THEY’VE TAKEN”
VERNON - Pocket change, sunglasses, and credit cards are among the items stolen from Rhian Harrison’s car, but the Vernon resident says the biggest thing she’s lost over a series of thefts is her sense of safety and security.
Since February, shortly after she moved into her 21 Avenue home, Harrison says her car has been broken into at least seven times while parked in her driveway. She admits to leaving her doors unlocked — a habit she developed after people broke into her car while she lived in Edmonton.
“All they do otherwise is break the windows,” she says.
After the first few times, she made a point of not leaving valuables in the car — or even pocket change, but this week she accidentally left her purse in her vehicle, and sure enough her debit and credit cards were gone the next day. She cancelled the cards before anything was charged to them, but there was still the hassle of calling the credit card company, and the inconvenience of waiting for the new ones to arrive, she says.
“I’m working really hard and these people keep stealing from me,” she says. “My sense of safety and security, that’s probably the biggest thing they’ve taken…. What happens if I’m sitting in my car quietly one day and they open the door? Do they hurt me? Do I hurt them?”
She got a large dog and has been reporting the thefts to police, but even they can’t do much, she says.
“The officer told me unless you catch them in the act, in the car physically, there’s not much they can do,” Harrison says. “And what can they do, charge them with the theft of toonies?”
She’s not the only one facing the problem of vehicle break ins. Between January and March of this year (the most recent months for which numbers were readily available) there were 173 calls for thefts from vehicles — more than one a day during those three months.
According to the police, they’re doing what they can, but say the public can play a role in deterring thefts from vehicles too.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a target is to take precautions.
“They’re crimes of opportunity. We should be able to leave stuff in our vehicles, however there are people who make a living… making thefts from your property,” Molendyk says. “The public can help us by doing a few checks and balances.”
Always locking your car doors and never leaving valuables in sight — or even pocket change — are the best ways to prevent yourself from becoming a target, Molendyk says.
“Do not do anything that will tempt people into making you a victim,” he says.
He says thefts from vehicles are not isolated to any particular area of the city, and encourages neighbourhoods to establish community block watches to put more eyes and ears on the streets.
As for what cops are doing, Molendyk says officers do conduct heavier patrols in areas where there’s been a rash of thefts, and they also use bait cars to catch perpetrators in the act. But unless they do catch them red-handed, it’s very difficult to track down suspects. Whatever the crime, even if it was only a couple bucks stolen, Molendyk encourages people to report it to police.
“It’s not only frustrating for the public, but for police,” Molendyk says. “We’ve seen it where they’ll do 10 vehicles on a street.”
Harrison isn’t sure what to do next, but video surveillance, a block watch and a Facebook reporting page have all crossed her mind.
“To get broken into seven times in the last few months, no I don’t feel safe,” she says.
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