|Inspector Brad Haugli|
There were 41 per cent fewer vehicle thefts in 2012 compared to 2003 in the city. Over the same period, vehicle break-ins dropped by 66 per cent.
ICBC reports there were about 70 reported vehicle thefts last year, compared to 120 a decade ago. The number of Penticton auto thefts peaked at 200 in 2006 but have dropped steadily ever since.
Insp. Brad Haugli, officer in charge of the RCMP's South Okanagan detachments, said the trend is consistent with other areas of the province.
Haugli noted the Penticton detachment piloted a crime reduction model in 2004 which targeted prolific habitual offenders who repeatedly stole cars or committed other crimes while possessing a stolen vehicle.
He also credited the RCMP's bait car program which started shortly afterwards.
"Bait car was another big success and continues to be a success," he said. "I would say that's a good reason for our reductions here in this community."
Haugli declined to reveal how many bait cars are used in Penticton, but noted they are considered a priority program.
"We continue to use the bait car program extensively in the community of Penticton and our whole regional district when trends are identified by our crime analysts," he said.
Crime analysts provide information on neighbourhoods where the most auto thefts and break-ins occur, which allows police to focus their attention on those locations.
RCMP are also provided information on when convicted auto thieves are released from custody and return to the community.
"We can either provide compliance checks if they have any probation conditions, or come up with a plan to ultimately monitor that individual which many times leads to us catching them yet again in committing a crime and sending them back to jail."
Haugli added that increased public awareness of auto theft is having an impact. Many automakers are also installing various forms of vehicle immobilizers.
"You can't just basically punch an ignition to steal a car," he said. "Each year, automakers making those changes for the better, creating more of those cars on the street, so less vehicles with an opportunity for crooks to steal."
However, there was a slight increase in thefts from vehicles last year. About 70 vehicle break-ins were reported, up from 60 in 2011.
Haugli said contrary to recent trends, it appears a higher number of different people are breaking into vehicles Ð including bait cars.
"It's not the same crew that you would get stealing from cars. For some reason, there seems to be a trend of various individuals Ð some with no criminal records that are young adults – or others with extensive criminal records that are committing that crime."
Provincially, auto theft had dropped by 73 in B.C. since 2003.