by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – A bag of screws and a bigger bag of determination are seeing the Morinville RCMP and the Morinville Citizens on Patrol (COP) uniting their efforts for two anti-theft initiatives this summer. The police and their partners are reminding homeowners to lock their cars and their garages, and offering special screws to make it harder for would-be thieves to steal vehicle license plates.
Acting Staff Sergeant Mark Mathias said the Lock It Or Lose It Campaign has been underway for a while and is going well for the two agencies. Under the program, COP members are going out at night with RCMP members looking for potential theft targets. “They’re checking vehicles to see if they are locked and secure or not,” Mathias said. “If they [COP] find a vehicle that is unlocked they get a member to check and secure the vehicle. Our member leaves a pamphlet inside about the risk of leaving your vehicle unlocked.”
In winter police can easily see the search and snatch tactics criminals use. Footprints in the snow often show criminals check one vehicle, and move on to another until they find one that is open. It is at that point that prints show a flurry of footwork as thieves enter the vehicle from all points looking for items that can be sold. Though the visible evidence is less in the summer months, the incidences often increase, as better weather tends to draw out more criminals in search of open vehicles and open opportunities.
“It’s proven that by leaving your vehicle unlocked, there’s a higher chance they are going to enter your vehicle,” Mathias said. “There is the argument that your vehicle is your property and you shouldn’t expect that stuff is going to get stolen. But if you make it an easy target, criminals are going to get into it.”
Mathias said over the several joint outings RCMP and COP have made so far they are noticing approximately 10 per cent of vehicles are being left unlocked. But in addition to leaving a pamphlet in unlocked vehicles reminding people that the next person that looks into an unlocked vehicle may not be police, Matthias said they are also contacting homeowners who are leaving their garage doors open. “People are very thankful and often they just forgot they left it open,” Mathias said, adding a criminal can easily get in, close the garage door, and then gain entry into the home if people are away.
But preventing people from stealing items from inside vehicles and garages is not the only initiative underway by the two groups. The COP recently purchased a quantity of 5,000 anti-theft screws and are distributing them through the Morinville RCMP Detachment.
“What we are seeing happen is criminals will steal a vehicle and then they’ll go to another vehicle and steal the license plate off that vehicle,” Mathias said. “The reason for that is most people don’t check their license plate very often. If they swap license plates, it might take two weeks to a month for people to notice that the license plate has been stolen. So the criminals can drive the stolen vehicle around with less fear of being caught.” Mathias went on to say stolen vehicles are often used in other crimes. “If we can curb the criminals ability to use stolen vehicles, it is going to reduce other crimes,” he said.”
The COP and RCMP believe popping on a couple of the special one-way screws can reduce license plate theft from happening. “You can use a flat screwdriver to attach the license plate to the car,” Mathias said. “But when you try to take it out, it won’t grip it. You need a special tool to take it out.
Currently the screws are available to Morinville residents, although Mathias said the COP are working to make it available in other communities in Sturgeon County. Currently, Technical Automotives in Morinville’s industrial park have the tool to remove the screws should people need them removed. The RCMP are looking at making that service available elsewhere in town as well as at the detachment itself.
The screws are available to Morinville residents at no cost by visiting the Morinville RCMP Detachment on 101 Avenue.