|Herald photo by David Rossiter
Lethbridge Regional Police Service shows how quickly a vehicle can be broken into and its contents stolen during a smash-and-grab demonstration in the Sobeys Uplands parking lot Wednesday.
The Lethbridge Regional Police Service receives calls about car prowlings all year.
But they say it becomes more pronounced during the holiday season as people are often hurried and don't necessarily take the proper precautions to protect the contents of their vehicles.
This year the LRPS has partnered with the Alberta Motor Association for a program called Operation Christmas Presence - an initiative to remind the public to remove valuables from their vehicles or ensure they are stored out of sight.
Wednesday morning, at the Sobeys Uplands parking lot, officers performed a smash and grab demonstration on a parked vehicle containing electronics and holiday shopping bags.
"Basically what we're trying to do is inform people of how easy it is for an individual to break into your car and steal all your valuables," said Cst. Blaine Stodolka, community liaison officer for the LRPS.
"Car break-ins are definitely an issue for our service, but this time of year it's really more prevalent because people leave more stuff in their vehicles. We want to make sure people get their presents home safely."
LRPS officers will be patrolling parking lots during the next week, checking vehicles and offering theft prevention tips. They will also be handing out yellow placards that can be placed in car windows and say "all valuables removed."
Wendy Mah, crime prevention co-ordinator for AMA, says the placards serve two purposes.
"They are to train you as a driver to stop and think, just for a couple seconds, what you are leaving in plain view in your vehicle," she explained.
"The second thing is that vehicle prowlers are looking for the quickest, easiest, mark possible, so if they see that placard in your window they are less likely to break into your vehicle."
"They're not going to break into your vehicle on the chance that there might be something," Stodolka added.
"If it's out of sight, out of mind, they're just going to move on to someone else down the road that is an easier target."
Mah has been working with police services across the province to raise awareness of the issue of vehicle theft.
She said there are between 13,000 and 16,000 thefts from vehicles every year in the province, mostly for items such as electronics, personal documents and garage door openers.
"Another thing that we are trying to reinforce to people is to be a little bit more vigilant about their surroundings," Mah said.
"When you're leaving your vehicle, make sure you're looking around."