‘Thieves are getting brazen’: Ottawa police warn of spike in daytime vehicle thefts at malls, grocery stores

Ottawa police are warning motorists to watch out for a new trend this fall of vehicles being stolen from parking lots at shopping malls, grocery stores and recreation and sporting venues in broad daylight.

“Thieves are getting brazen,” Staff Sgt. Cathy Brown said in a statement.

“You may have your mind on your seasonal shopping list, but thieves are taking advantage of unattended vehicles in parking lots to steal your car, SUV or truck.”

A total of 1,160 vehicles have been reported stolen in Ottawa this year. Police tell CTV News Ottawa that 173 vehicles were reported stolen in November.

In a media release, police say there has been “a surge” of reported vehicle thefts from the parking lots of grocery stores, recreation and sporting venues and shopping malls during daylight hours.

Det. Doug Belanger told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now the daytime vehicle thefts can happen in minutes.

“This trend of some of the daytime (thefts) targeting vehicles is a very recent trend. I’m concerned that it might become more common if it proves to be a good option for these organized groups,” Belanger said Friday afternoon.

“Statistically, it’s only a very small proportion of the overall (theft) rate.”

Belanger says the amount of time it takes to steal a vehicle is “minimal”.

“The availability of these vehicles and the amount of time it takes is so minimal. Some of the investigations we’ve had to date, I’ve seen groups that are so polished at it,” Belanger said. “The amount of noise and the fuss that it takes to perform the theft is so minimal; how much is that really going to stand out in a large parking lot … it doesn’t take long. By the time people maybe realize what’s going on, it’s already done and it’s away.”

Police say there has been an “undeniable spike” in thefts of the following newer model vehicles

  • Honda (specifically CRVs)
  • Acura
  • Dodge Durango
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Lexus RX
  • Ford F-series trucks

Police say any model of vehicle with a proximity key are being targeted by thieves.

“We are seeing it on a daily basis now and that’s something that has been a continuing trend but it’s escalated quite aggressively,” Belanger told CTV News Ottawa.

Vehicle thefts are still being reported overnight from an owner’s driveway.

When you are shopping or at the arena this holiday season, police encourage you to “be vigilant” while parking.

“That means engaging any security system you have purchased for your vehicle,” Brown said.

“For example, if you have an Engine Control Module (ECM) port lock, make sure it is engaged, if you own a club, attach it to your steering wheel while you shop.”

A total of 373 stolen vehicles have been recovered by police this year.

Police recommend the following tips to protect your vehicle:

  • Parking inside a garage if available
  • Install an Engine Control Module
  • Install an after-market vehicle immobilizer
  • Installing after-market tracking devices or “GPS”
  • Use a steering wheel lock to deter thieves

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy

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