Thieves target key drop-off boxes at vehicle dealerships
Published Wednesday, October 28, 2015 5:11PM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:28PM MDT
As Calgary experiences a dramatic spike in reported vehicle thefts, opportunistic thieves have found another way to separate cars, trucks and vans from their rightful owners.
Nearly 130 vehicles are reported stolen in Calgary each week, some of which have been snatched from dealerships, storage companies or auto body shops where owners have left their keys in what they believed was a secure lockbox.
“There has been an increase of this around the city,” said Staff Sergeant Kristie Verheul of the CPS economic crimes unit. “Dealership lots are being targeted. We have vehicle repair shops being targeted, auctions, rental car companies, and then just all the unit vehicles around the city that have keys in them.”
“This is not a new thing in Calgary, but, in the past four weeks, we have seen a spike in this activity.”
On a recent Sunday night, Lee and Diane Schneider parked their 2014 Jeep Cherokee in the Tower Chrysler lot to undergo repairs and dropped the keys in the lock box. When the Schneiders called the dealership to find out when they could pick up their Jeep, the dealership had no record of their vehicle.
“She said ‘Well, it’s not there’,” recalls Lee Schneider. “She came back again and said ‘Oh my god, your car’s been stolen. We had a break-in last night and they took all the keys out of the lock box’.”
The Schneiders contacted the Calgary Police Service and investigators determined thieves had fished the Jeep keys out of the drop box and drove the vehicle off the lot.
“When I talked to the police they said dealers have been warned this is a really lousy system,” said Lee Schneider.
“You’re handing your keys and the possession of your vehicle to the dealer and you expect there to be a standard of care as if it was their own vehicle.”
Tower Chrysler refused to comment on the theft.
Staff Sergeant Verheul says police are asking dealerships to take steps to ensure keys remain out of reach of would-be thieves.
“When it comes to lock boxes, we are asking that they make them break-in proof,” said Verheul. “Ones that can't be fished out of with a hook of some sort.”
The Schneiders are thankful their insurance will cover the theft but say they’ll think twice before leaving their keys in a drop box again.
With files from CTV’s Lea Williams-Doherty