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Recent vehicle thefts due to owners leaving keys in, MJPS says

The Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) presented the monthly crime statistics during the Board of Police Commissioners’ June 7 meeting, with data showing that vehicle thefts rose 50 per cent in April and 44 per cent in May year-over-year.
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MOOSE JAW — The Moose Jaw Police Service has seen an increase in vehicle thefts during the past two months, which the agency says is due to residents leaving keys inside and doors unlocked.

The MJPS presented the monthly crime statistics during the Board of Police Commissioners’ June 7 meeting, with data showing that vehicle thefts rose 50 per cent in April and 44 per cent in May year-over-year.

Specifically, there were 21 vehicle thefts in April compared to 14 in 2023, while there were 26 thefts in May compared to 18 last year. 

When asked why this category had increased, Deputy Chief Rick Johns said that “the bulk of vehicle thefts” are because people leave their keys in their automobiles and their vehicle doors unlocked. 

“That is the driver behind a lot of these vehicle thefts. It’s just a lot of opportunity,” he remarked. “As we know, the amount of vehicles are getting more and more complex with … their security systems, so it is getting more difficult to steal vehicles compared to years ago.”

The MJPS and Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) both remind residents to “lock it or lose it” and encourage them to take their keys, Johns added.

Commissioner Nicole Swanson works for SGI’s contentious files team — which handles claims where insurance coverage is unknown — and says she receives many files about owners having their vehicles stolen even though they possess the keys. 

However, she pointed out that criminals would not likely steal vehicles if they were made after 2008, especially if they had push-button ignitions, because of all the technology in modern cars and trucks. 

“If someone says, ‘My 2015 Ford F-150 with a push button start was stolen, but I have the keys,’ there’s something fishy going on. Except if it’s a ring of car thieves with the technology,” Swanson said.

“But they’re not going to steal an ’08 Caravan, I can tell you that right now. They’re looking at high-end vehicles to throw into containers to ship ’em overseas,” she continued. 

Decades ago, it was easier for car thieves to “jack just about anything,” Swanson added. But that’s changed, and today, the problem is either owners leave keys in the vehicles or something suspicious is happening. 

If the police service discovered an “anomaly” where thieves were stealing vehicles with high-end security systems, it would thoroughly investigate because that would mean there is a sophisticated crime ring with the technology to defeat modern programs, said Johns.

“And they’re going after certain vehicles; they’re not just going to go after whatever … ,” said Swanson. “So you’re probably safe if it’s a Caravan.” 

Vehicle collisions

Another statistic that caught the board’s eye was motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) over $1,000, as the May data showed there were 136 incidents that month compared to 85 in 2023, a jump of 60 per cent. 

Swanson, because of her experience with SGI, said that slight damage to doors these days costs $1,000 or more to fix, which meant the statistics were somewhat unrealistic. She wondered if the police service planned to increase that number for better accuracy.

“You can’t do anything for under $1,000 … . I just feel that number is a little bit irrelevant,” she added.

The MJPS tracks MVAs using certain criteria, such as injuries or out-of-province plates, while many collisions happen because of seasonal road conditions, said Johns. Meanwhile, he recalled how the amount — based on Statistics Canada tracking data — used to be $500.