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Canada hosts summit on auto thefts, but Calgary and Alberta bucking the trend

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As Canadian officials gather to discuss a surge in vehicle thefts, Calgary police say the problem isn’t taking off locally like it is in other markets.

A summit is being held in Ottawa on Thursday to target the increase in auto theft. In Canada, there were nearly 105,000 vehicles stolen last year – one every five minutes.

It costs taxpayers and policyholders about a billion dollars.

But according to the Calgary Police Service, the city isn’t in crisis mode quite yet. In 2023, the number of car thefts dipped about 18 per cent.

There were 4,898 vehicles stolen from Calgarians, which is down 16 per cent from the five-year average.

“We’re not seeing a major issue with vehicles that are leaving the city, or even the province,” Staff Sgt. Mike Chute said. “A lot of it has to do with the jurisdiction: it takes a long time to get a vehicle to an out-port.”

In other cities — specifically Vancouver and Toronto — vehicles are stolen and placed in shipping containers to be sold overseas.

In Calgary, police say the theft is more a crime of opportunity.

“They’re being used for a short duration within Calgary to commit other crimes, and then we’re successfully recovering those vehicles,” Chute told CTV News.

There are local repeat offenders who are watched closely. Hot spots are also targeted by the CPS auto unit.

The city saw a total of 59 carjackings in 2023, compared to 40 in 2022. There have been nine this year.

Alberta RCMP has these tips for people to help prevent car thefts:

  • Always keep your doors locked when you are not in the vehicle, especially if it is running;
  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle;
  • Be sure to remove all valuables, and store purchases in your trunk until you get home;
  • Use a steering wheel club;
  • Always keep your garage locked, and do not store your garage door opener in your vehicle;
  • Whenever possible, park in a well-lit area; and
  • Consider installing a vehicle tracking system.

The federal government's talks come as $28 million is budgeted for the Canada Border Services Agency to help track down and search shipping containers loaded with stolen vehicles destined overseas.

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