For Erika Inzunza, the auto crime wave sweeping over Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows ruined her Easter.
During a short visit to the Kanaka Creek riverfront park on Lougheed Highway the Saturday of Easter weekend, someone broke into her 2006 Dodge Caravan and took her purse and all her ID.
Without cash or bank cards, she had no money for Easter weekend food or chocolates.
But that’s not the important thing.
“The most important thing is that we are not safe in our own town anymore. I don’t feel safe anymore and I know I am not, which makes me very sad and worried.”
What bothers her as much is that she’s just one of many.
When she went to the Royal Bank of Canada to change her account, the teller told her she was the second person that day who had their vehicle broken into.
When she went to her second bank, CIBC, Inzunza learned she was the third customer that day dealing with a theft from auto.
“It’s happening to almost everybody who I know or who I’ve talked to. Something’s happened to them or to someone very close to them,” Inzunza added.
“Wow, it’s something serious. It’s not just one case, isolated. It’s a lot.”
A brief tour of local Facebook groups shows additional recent cases.
Christine Taylor’s husband lost his iPod after leaving his car unlocked at night April 4 in Pitt Meadows, while Cassi MacDonald nearby had her car broken into twice.
And Robyn Cook’s husband, Dan, had the entire navigation system ripped out of his car April 1, according to the group Protecting Pitt Meadows.
Five cars were hit that night, he said.
“We’ve got people who are up all night,” he added.
“It’s definitely getting worse. It’s almost a daily thing.”
On April 10, he heard a noise and went outside and followed one of the suspects.
“I followed him for a little bit, then called the cops.” But then the suspect, carrying a metal object, charged the car.
“It wasn’t till then that the cops showed up. They did not seem highly motivated to go after this guy.”
On the Protecting Our Communities group, Candice Brown reports April 13 that her neighbour’s unlocked car was broken into at about 1:30 a.m.. The incident was caught on camera, which showed the thieves arrived on bicycles.
Three days earlier, Jenessa Munz reported her dad’s truck was broken into on Ritchie Avenue. Some change and tools were taken.
“Neighbours scared him off, but he left his bike,” she said of the suspect.
Ridge Meadows RCMP know there’s a problem with auto crime, both theft from auto and theft of auto, and are hosting an event Friday to raise awareness.
“The numbers are up significantly. We’re not trying to sugar coat it,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP civilian media spokesman Dan Herbranson.
“I don’t think there’s 24 hours go by without at least one,” he added.
“We’ve seen a dramatic rise to levels we haven’t seen in 10 years. It’s been a gradual rise to now where there’s a real spike.”
It’s now the detachment’s top priority.
Police issued a news release Friday about their auto crime awareness event, but didn’t provide any statistics about how much auto-related crime has increased.
They did produce a top-five list of vehicles, older models without engine immobilizers, which thieves are targeting: 1996-2000 Honda Civic; 2000-06 Ford F-350 pickup; 1991-99 Honda Accord; 1989-93 Mazda B2200 pickup; 1998-2006 Dodge Ram pickup.
“If you own one of these vehicles, you need to attend this event,” say police.
But it’s theft from vehicles where the real increase has been noted.
A group of people seem to be moving from one community to another, says Herbranson.
Police always welcome tips and suggestions for reducing crime.
Many people still don’t lock their vehicles at night. Or many will leave their keys in their vehicle so they can use the push button to start the motor.
The RCMP’s auto crime awareness event starts at 3 p.m. in Haney Plaza on Dewdney Trunk Road where they’ll be handing out steering wheel locks.
“We know there are a number of offenders who are breaking into our citizen’s cars each night,” said Supt. Dave Fleugel.
“I can assure the public that we have a large number of investigators targeting these people and auto crime is our top policing priority currently.”
People should make sure their cars are locked when parked, don’t leave valuable items inside and improve night time lighting.
“Keep your keys secure at all times, lock your vehicle whenever it’s unattended and remove electronics and other valuables,” added Kate Woochuk, local ICBC road safety coordinator.