Vehicle-related thefts continued to plummet in Prince George and across the province, according to year-end numbers from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, but that hasn't stopped the insurer from introducing new wrinkles to its crime-fighting programs.
In releasing year-end statistics this week, ICBC also said it will further equip its bait cars with new audio and video technology and it will introduce a bait property program in which tracking devices will be attached to the items left inside vehicles to catch thieves in high crime areas.
Since 2003, when the bait car program was introduced, theft of vehicles has fallen 73 per cent in B.C. and Prince George has not been an exception to the trend.
In 2012, 100 thefts of vehicles were reported, compared to 180 in 2011, a 41-per-cent drop. And compared to the 500 such reports in 2003, that's a 79-per-cent decline.
The same held true for thefts from vehicles reported to ICBC. Those added up to 90 in 2012, a 42-per-cent drop from 160 in 2011 and a 92-per-cent fall from 1,110 in 2003.
ICBC spokeswoman Michelle Hargraves credited much of the decline in vehicle thefts to the bait car program, where a car or truck equipped with a tracking device is planted in a high-crime spot. When the unsuspecting thief takes off with the vehicle, police can easily track him down.
As for the theft from vehicles, Hargraves said a combination of factors may be in play - from increased awareness of theft prevention to heightened policing.
ICBC's records are only for incidents reported to the insurer, usually when the amount lost exceeds the deductible. Hargraves also noted that some thefts from vehicles are covered by house insurance rather than car insurance, such as the loss of golf clubs to a criminal.
But the numbers are in line with what Prince George RCMP have been seeing.
Cpl. Craig Douglass said Friday that thefts of vehicles fell from a rate of just over eight per week in 2011 to just over four per week in 2012, while thefts from dropped from 26 per week in 2011 to 15.5 per week in 2012.
Douglass said many of the thefts can come down to the work of a few individuals. Two people, now in custody, were suspected of stealing more than 60 pickup trucks in 40 days during a period prior to 2012.
"When you put them in jail then instantly your numbers drop," he said.
Weather seems to play a role in thefts of property from vehicles. During 2012, the rate of such crimes hit a high of 32 during one week in the summer and dropped to a low of five during a week in the winter.
"In the summer, it's warm and it's light out very late," Douglass said.
He credited the detachment's crime reduction program, which targets prolific offenders for the decline, as well as plain good police work.
"The various units in the detachment out patrolling and looking specifically for these types of people, especially in the summer months," Douglass said.
A bait property program has already been operating in Prince George, Douglass said, but without the tracking devices.