In conducting an education campaign to help prevent thefts from vehicles, police officers have found that a lot of people leave themselves open to become victims of crime.
RNC Sgt. Doug Day released the findings of the Lock It or Lose It Campaign Wednesday. It was conducted last month following a spike in thefts from vehicles in November and December in the St. John’s area.
“There were 320 reported incidents, and you can count on half not being reported,” he said.
“Cases where papers are disheveled or something minor was stolen don’t even get reported, so if 320 are reported, it could be as high as 500 or 600 incidents in total. So when we look at that, it is an epidemic and we had to try to do something to curb it.”
Education and public awareness is important, said Day, who’s with the patrol division.
“We started the campaign to educate the public to Lock It or Lose It, to try to help people help themselves from being victims of crime,” he said.
Officers visited shopping mall parking lots and others during November and checked 805 vehicles. On the first day 714 cars were checked and 45 per cent had the potential to attract thieves.
“We found vehicles unlocked, keys left in vehicles and items left in plain sight,” Day told reporters.
The next day, of 91 vehicles examined, 35 per cent were in the same state.
In an effort to make motorists aware of the campaign, officers tucked blue flyers underneath wipers, with five check-boxes: vehicle unlocked; vehicle unlocked with keys in view; window open; valuables in plain view; and vehicle locked, keys removed, windows closed, valuables out of sight — congratulations.
“Last week we saw wallets in plain view, a $50 gift card on the dash for a local restaurant,” Day said.
“Some people had hundreds and hundreds of dollars in electronics, kit bags. Anything you can leave in plain sight is a potential target for somebody. While you may know what is in it, anybody involved in criminal activity don’t know and would break into it just to see what is there,” the officer warned.
Day said sometimes people leave items in their vehicles because they are in a hurry, but it’s better to take the time to lock them in the trunk rather than leaving them in plain view.
As a result of the campaign, one person was arrested during a tense incident at Memorial University’s Field House on Feb. 21.
Officers were looking at vehicles in the parking lot when they noticed someone lurking near parked cars.
When officers approached the suspect, he fled in a stolen SUV. One police officer was injured and another fired a bullet at the SUV.
Justin Michael Chipman, 26, of St. John’s was arrested the next day and charged with 14 offences: four counts of assaulting a peace officer, four counts of assault with a weapon, two counts of theft under $5,000, one count of theft exceeding $5,000 in relation to a motor vehicle, property damage, dangerous driving and breach of a probation order.
The RNC have asked the RCMP to conduct an independent investigation of the firearm discharge.
There was no comment from the RNC Wednesday about the case.