Anti-Theft in British Columbia

The Use of Anti-theft Devices in BC
Auto crime continues to be a major concern for BC drivers. Over the past few years, ICBC has encouraged the use of anti-theft devices to deter theft of vehicles, theft from vehicles, and damage caused by vandalism. Corporate Research has tracked the use of anti-theft devices and has researched driver attitudes towards auto crime.

How Big is the Auto Crime Problem?
British Columbians received a wake-up call in 1996, when it was revealed that the theft rate of vehicles in our province was 60% higher than the national average. As well as a high financial cost attached to these statistics, there was a high personal cost in terms of inconvenience and trauma to more than 22,000 victims. ICBC responded to the problem, and developed the Auto Crime Strategies Program aimed at encouraging people to reduce their risk. Since 1996, the number of auto crime claims has decreased. However, crime still costs policyholders a lot. The total claims paid out for auto crime in 1999 amounted to $134 million.

Ever wonder what are your chances of having your vehicle stolen, broken into, or damaged? ICBC statistics show that if you live in the Lower Mainland, you could be one of an expected 8,000 + vehicle owners having to make an auto crime claim this year. If you live elsewhere in the province, your chances may be less: you may be one of approximately 5,000 if you live in the Fraser Valley, or one of about 800 if you live in the northern interior region of the province.

Playing the Odds
Consider how you would feel if one day, you struggle out to the parking lot with your groceries and children, only to discover your car is no longer where you left it. Or, picture yourself and your best friend looking forward to finding that perfect campsite after a strenuous day-hike. But when you get to your vehicle, you discover the windows are broken, the tires slashed, and all your gear is gone. What emotions would you feel? Despair? Confusion? Anger?

Despite the risks, ICBC's 1999 survey revealed that two-thirds of the vehicle owners in the province don't use any type of device to protect their vehicle. Most of these people also don't plan to purchase one in the near future. Their main reasons are:

they don't think their vehicle is worth protecting (45%)
they don't think they live in a high crime area (33%)
anti-theft devices are considered expensive (11%).
Interestingly, half the people in the 1999 survey who now own an anti-theft device said that their vehicle was broken into, vandalized or stolen at least once before they bought the device. Clearly, these people had played the odds and lost.

Drivers Take Action

As the Crime and Fraud pages report in more detail — if you don't like playing the odds, you can decrease your chances of becoming a victim of auto crime. ICBC identified anti-theft devices (ATDs) as one tool to discourage theft and vandalism. There are three main types of ATDs:

mechanical devices such as steering wheel locking bars
electronic immobilizers that cut off power to parts of the ignition system
alarms that draw attention to a vehicle when it is disturbed.
ICBC has been promoting the use of anti-theft devices for the past three years. Surveys showed that by 1997, a quarter of the vehicle owners in BC said they owned some type of anti-theft device. Not surprisingly, people living in the Lower Mainland, where auto crime incidents were highest, were almost twice as likely as residents from interior regions to purchase a device. Usage was lowest on Vancouver Island. A year after ICBC began taking an active part in educating BC residents about auto crime, ownership of anti-theft devices almost doubled (40% increase). During 1999, ownership increased again, although this increase was small. A little more than a third of BC drivers now protect their vehicle with at least one anti-theft device. It appears that ICBC's programs have had an effect. Most of these people reported having read, heard or seen an advertisement about anti-theft devices before purchasing theirs.

Benefits of Auto Crime Strategies
Auto crime statistics show a decrease in the yearly number of claims settled from 1996 to 1999. At least part of this decrease could be due to the increased use of anti-theft devices. In fact, studies conducted by the Vehicle Information Centre of Canada indicate such devices could reduce car theft by as much as 70%.

Mechanical devices such as steering-wheel immobilizers are the most popular. Their use has increased considerably. Use of electronic immobilizers has also increased. The purchase of electronic alarms has remained stable since 1997.

The surveys showed that people purchase anti-theft devices mainly to prevent crime. The majority of owners said they felt their risk of auto crime had been reduced as a result of their anti-theft device. For these people there may be an added benefit many of them are not even aware of. Discount insurance rates and deductible rebates are available to owners of certain types of ATDs.