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CBC News recently broadcast a story about the serious issue of auto theft that concluded older vehicles in British Columbia are being targeted by auto thieves, more so than in other provinces.

The analysis found that vehicle models between 1997 and 2007 in particular, are stolen the most often in this province, and experts say this is largely to do with a lack of anti-theft protections within older vehicles, in particular immobilizers — anti-theft devices that became mandatory in all new vehicles sold in Canada in 2007.

In BC, where older vehicles tend to have a longer lifespan than in other provinces, data shows thieves overwhelmingly target pre-2008 vehicles. According to ICBC, 7,500 vehicles were stolen in BC in 2020 and cars and trucks from the period between 1997 and 2008 are overrepresented.

The data is echoed by B.C.’s I.M.P.A.C.T Team (Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team), which says the most commonly stolen vehicles in B.C. are typically older models that do not have an immobilizer built in, and they’re stolen the ‘old fashioned’ way by tampering with the ignition.

The latest major study, by Hellosafe.ca concluded in a 2021 study that BC ranks number three in Canada in auto thefts. Using 2019 data as a benchmark, the research determined that 87-thousand vehicles were stolen in Canada in that calendar year. Ontario, with almost 24,000 car thefts, ranked first among Canadian provinces in this regard, followed closely by Alberta (23,000). With 13,000 auto thefts, BC came third, followed by Quebec with almost 12,000 auto thefts.

So, what’s the solution?

Certainly, there is no single answer, but part of the solution may exist in looking at what other jurisdictions have done in the face of similar challenges. In Manitoba as an example, 15 years ago government invoked a mandatory immobilizer program following exceptionally high vehicle thefts. The program paid for people to have immobilizers installed if they owned high-risk vehicles and they would be ordered to install them when they went to renew their insurance. The strategy was highly effective with a 40 per cent reduction in auto thefts after just one year.

It’s also important that each of us take some level of personal responsibility by adopting strategies that may appear to be common sense, but each is an important aspect of mitigating theft. These include parking in secure, well-lit areas, removing valuables from the vehicle so as to not invite unwanted attention, not storing a spare key in the vehicle, keeping the garage door opener out of sight, waiting for garage door gates to close behind you before leaving a parkade, installing an audible alarm system and anti-theft device f your vehicle isn’t equipped – and using an electronic engine immobilizer or steering wheel lock.

Thieves by their very nature are predatory and will look for any opportunity, and while you may not be able to eliminate the potential for theft, there are precautions that will help reduce the chance of having your car stolen and becoming a victim.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca