News Local

Richmond auto thefts skyrocket

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Richmond RCMP say thieves will go after anything that's left visible. 

Richmond RCMP say thieves will go after anything that's left visible. (FILE PHOTO)

Richmond is experiencing a baffling spike in the number of cars being broken into, so much so that one active RCMP investigation has targeted two people believed to have been staking out weddings at South Asian gurdwaras to steal from unattended cars.

RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton told 24 hours on Tuesday the force has been following the rise in thefts from vehicle break-ins over the past six weeks.

The detachment’s latest public numbers show that this type of crime has roughly doubled in the first five months of the year — currently showing 1,169 reports — compared to the same time in 2013.

And when just looking at May numbers alone, the occurrences are at their highest point in the past five years.

Ashton said the recent arrests could only account for a small portion of the offences.

At two Indian gurdwaras, there were 19 combined offences during celebrations that police allege to be the work of Satpaul Singh Dhaliwal and Ranjit Singh Dhaliwal.

Both were arrested in May after police conducted surveillance on one of the gurdwaras. No new cases have been reported at the locations since.

But those instances, coupled by the fact RCMP are not aware of any one prolific offender returning to the community, has left law enforcement unable to explain why the crime is spiking.

“It’s very difficult to track this stuff and say, ‘Hey, this is the problem — this is the solution,’” Ashton said.

One of the best things police can do is warn — don’t leave valuables in unattended vehicles.

Ashton said the force now has up to seven volunteers at least twice a week looking for vehicles — at malls, other commercialized places — for visible valuables. When they find one, a warning note is placed on the windshield that the car could get its windows smashed by thieves.

Ashton said the majority of the thefts happen near downtown Richmond in commercialized areas at night. Mostly, electronics are being stolen when owners leave them in the car.

And for those cases that occur in the day, the thieves are so quick — sometimes it’s over in 30 seconds — that “by the time someone hears a sound and takes a look, they’re gone.”


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