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BC cops target ‘most wanted’ car thieves in Langley, Surrey, and Vancouver Island

RCMP fear car-theft spike if organized crime rings head west from Ontario, Quebec

Of the five most-wanted auto theft suspects in B.C., three are wanted by police in the South of the Fraser area.

On Friday, April 5 senior police and ICBC officials gathered in Langley to unveil the annual list of the suspects police are most interested in catching, who have been linked to car theft and auto crime.

This year, the list included Eric Arsenault, wanted in Surrey, Jordan Henderson, wanted in Langley, North Delta, and North Vancouver, and Raymond Thiffault, wanted in Kamloops, Surrey, and the Upper Fraser Valley area

The other suspects were Marshall Ballard and Morgan Blanch, both wanted in West Shore and in the Southern Vancouver Island area.

All the suspects are wanted B.C.-wide for auto crimes, and several were also wanted for crimes ranging from trafficking in stolen property to assault and possession of a weapon. Persons charged with a criminal offence are considered not guilty until the charges are proven in court.

The event is organized annually by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), which deploys bait cars and tackles auto theft on a B.C.-wide scale.

On the program’s 20th anniversary, officers were happy to say that auto theft was far lower than in the early 2000s, when Surrey – and the wider region – had among the highest rates of auto theft in North America.

Now that’s been dramatically reduced, said Deputy RCMP Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, head of the Mounties in B.C.

“Back in 2003, municipalities in B.C. were more often than not labelled with the term, or the title, auto crime capital of North America, and we were.”

There were 88 cars a day stolen on average in B.C.

“Now today, thanks to IMPACT and the great work they’ve done, we’ve seen a 75 per cent decrease in auto theft in B.C.,” McDonald said.

The speakers cautioned that drivers still need to be cautious, locking cars, using immobilizers or even old-style steering wheel locks.

There are still more than 7,000 cars a year stolen in B.C. every year, noted Shabnem Afzal, ICBC’s director of road safety.

The rate of thefts last year was down 10 per cent from 2022, said Acting Insp. Eugene Lum, head of IMPACT.

There are also concerns that car thefts could start rising again, as organized crime rings in Eastern Canada have driven theft rates up as much as 50 per cent in a year in Ontario and Quebec.

“We anticipate we will see an increase in serial auto theft,” Lum said.

B.C. has three major ports, and as police enforcement increases back east, thieves may move west to try to find cars.

He said local police already have integrated units, and they’re coordinating with other agencies like Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and automakers, to try to get ahead of any theft rings.

“Car thieves use modern technology to keep pace with improvements by car manufacturers,” said Lum.

Some car thieves are using “relay attacks,” where devices can pick up key fob signals from inside homes, near the front door, with the car parked by the curb. The thieves can pick up the signal and use it to open and start the car.

Meanwhile, the bait car system remains in place in B.C.

“In some of our vehicles, we’ll have up to four cameras,” said Matt Harrison, the Bait Car Program’s system administrator.

The cameras turn on as soon as the door is opened or a window broken. Over the last 20 years, the program has become better at hiding the cameras, which are designed to be used in low light conditions.

Increasingly, as car theft has dropped off, bait cars have also been used to target thieves who break into cars to steal small items.

Harrison said local detachments can place bait items in the cars. Cameras in the back can capture images of thieves, and local officers can often catch suspects within minutes, still holding the bait items, such as delivery parcels.

The list of the Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles in B.C. and most commonly targeted model years was also released by IMPACT.

They are:

1 – Ford F350 Series, 2006 model year

2 – Honda Civic, 2000

3 – Ford F150 Series, 2019

4 – Chevrolet Silverado, 2003

5 – Ram 1500 Series, 2019, 2021

6 – Ford F250 Series, 1999

7 – GMC Sierra, 2004, 2006

8 – Honda CR-V, 1997

9 – Dodge Ram 2500 Series, 2001

10 GMC Savana Van, 2017

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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