Volume 96, Issue 57
Friday, January 10, 2003

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Car stealin' a celebrated London hobby

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Attention Western students: the chance of your car being stolen in London has doubled in the past decade.

A newly released report from Statistics Canada pegged London as having the third-highest car theft rate for cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000 – with approximately seven or eight cars stolen every day across the city. London has a higher car theft rate than Calgary, Quebec City and even Toronto.

The car theft rate is based on the number of thefts per 100,000 population and is compiled with updates from local police authorities.

The report listed London as having 2,713 car thefts in 2001. This represented a slight decline from 2000, but still double that of 1991 levels.

Constable Paul Martin, spokesperson for the London Police Department, said about three quarters of car thefts are joy rides and are usually perpetrated by repeat offenders. Less than a quarter of stolen cars are never found and often end up in "backyard chop shops," which dismantle cars and sell the parts, Martin said.

"We've been fully aware of this problem and have been telling the London community for years," Martin said, adding he hopes the StatsCan report will bring public attention to the recurring problem.

Although the report shows an upwards trend in car thefts, London police have no specific plans to devote more resources to the issue, Martin said, adding public safety is paramount to all other concerns.

Car break-ins in Western parking lots are more common than actual [car] thefts, said Const. Colleen Kelly of the University Police Department.

"[It is] only because there are more people going around – in the parking lots," Kelly said, adding students who own cars should always be aware that leaving valuables lying around can attract unwanted attention.

Kelly also cautioned car owners against feeling too secure at Western. "Just because we are on a campus, it doesn't mean we're safe," she explained.

Student complaints regarding automobile crime are non-existent, said VP-campus issues Nicole Nelson. "To be honest – there has been absolutely nothing," she said, while adding there has been a rise in bike thefts.

The StatsCan report stated that, nationally, four in 10 vehicle thefts occur in parking lots, 30 per cent right on the street and 16 per cent from homes, including driveways and garages. Additionally, 38 per cent of all vehicle thefts occur between 6 a.m. and noon.

Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 accounted for 42 per cent of car thefts and nearly nine in 10 car thieves were males. However, the study revealed the proportion of females charged has almost doubled since 1991.

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2002 THE GAZETTE