Car thefts down dramatically in Vancouver

Honda Civic remains most popular choice for thieves

Car theft has plummeted in Vancouver in the past 10 years and police are attributing the decrease to police work, public education and anti-theft technology in vehicles.

Statistics released by the VPD Tuesday show 6,455 vehicles were stolen in Vancouver in 2003 compared to 1,202 last year. Police are now seeing about three vehicles stolen per day instead of an average of 18 back in 2003.

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"It's a little bit of everything," said Const. Brian Montague, a Vancouver Police Department liaison officer, when asked by reporters what caused the decline in auto theft.

Montague pointed to bait car programs, targeting chronic car thieves, educating the public how to prevent vehicles from being stolen and technology such as alarms and electronic engine immobilizers.

Even so, car thieves are still at work in the city and are most likely to steal a Honda Civic - the number one stolen car in Vancouver and Greater Vancouver, Montague said.

Why the Civic?

"That's a good question and I don't have an answer for you - but it's the older model Hondas and it seems to be a vehicle that thieves are targeting," he said. "Whether it's a desired vehicle or a vehicle that's a little easier for them to steal, I'm not sure."

The Ford F-series truck, a Honda Accord, a Chrysler or Dodge mini-van and the Jeep Cherokee and Liberty models round out the top five stolen vehicles in Vancouver and Greater Vancouver.

Montague said vehicles are stolen to be used in a crime such as robberies and burglaries to help feed a drug habit.

The VPD released the latest car theft statistics after arresting three alleged car thieves in the space of 24 hours. Two occurred March 3 and another March 4.

The first arrest occurred shortly after 3 a.m. when patrol officers observed an older model Toyota Land Cruiser on Boundary Road near 24th Avenue.

The SUV had been reported stolen the previous day from the 1400-block of Howe Street. Police followed the vehicle to Skeena Street, near 11th Avenue, and took the driver into custody without incident.

Shawn Gregory Nichols of Gibsons has been charged with theft and possession of stolen property.

Later that day, around 5:30 p.m., police arrested a man with the help of a liquor store clerk in the 5500-block West Boulevard.

The clerk chased the man as he left the store, preventing the suspect from getting into a waiting unoccupied Honda Civic with the engine running.

Police confirmed the Honda had been stolen seven days earlier from an East Side neighbourhood. Officers found the man a few blocks from the liquor store.

Justin Gordon Brett, 35, of no fixed address, has been charged with theft and possession of stolen property.

The next day, about 4 a.m., a police dog handler spotted a stolen truck driving east on Highway 1 through the Cassiar Tunnel.

The officer was joined by officers in Burnaby and New Westminster. Before officers could "put their plan into action" the truck crashed into a hedge on Karman Avenue, near Cumberland Street in New Westminster, Montague said.

A police dog caught the man who was attempting to flee on foot. A 30-year-old Surrey resident is facing charges related to the stolen vehicle.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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