Police canvass neighbourhoods after rash of vehicle thefts

By Chris Daponte

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Vehicle thefts are up by 27 per cent across the county this year, with Centre Wellington seemingly a preferred target for thieves.

Wellington County OPP officers canvassed Fergus and Elora on foot last week in response to a rash of vehicle thefts, reminding to “lock it or lose it.”

“If you [saw] police canvassing on foot there’s a high likelihood your area is high-risk,” Constable Josh Cunningham told the Advertiser.

However, he noted anyone leaving their vehicle unlocked is putting themselves at risk, regardless of location.

As of July 17, there have been 99 vehicles stolen across Wellington County this year, a 27 per cent increase over the prorated figures for 2018 (156 vehicle thefts for the entire year).

In June and July alone, 28 vehicles have been stolen across the county, which represent a 56% increase over the 2018 prorated monthly average.

“The vast majority are unlocked and many with the keys in the ignition … or inside the vehicle,” Cunningham said of the recent thefts.

He explained investigators are “looking at a lot of options” and while more than one person is involved, any connection between recent thefts “isn’t quite clear yet.”

Cunningham said in addition to the obvious loss and aggravation for owners, vehicle thefts present additional problems for police.

Stolen vehicles are often used to commit other crimes, including home invasions and further thefts, he explained. And vehicle thefts, most of which are preventable, divert police resources from other pressing issues.

“Someone could be killed,” said Cunningham, noting owners could be held liable if their vehicle is involved in another crime or an incident in which someone is seriously hurt.

Police say locking vehicles prevents theft and also deters would-be thieves from taking items inside.

To date this year, there have been 115 thefts (under $5,000) from vehicles, Cunningham said. The total for 2018 was 236.

“We think there’s a huge under-reporting of it,” he said, as some people blame themselves for not locking their vehicle and then never tell police about it.

Police officials stress owners should always ensure their vehicles are locked – even if it’s in their own driveway and even if they are home.

“As great a community as Wellington County is, if people leave stuff unlocked, it’s going to attract thieves,” Cunningham said.