New approach to crime prevention puts the brakes on auto theft rates in Winnipeg

    OTTAWA, Oct. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Winnipeg has started to reverse its
reputation as the auto theft capital of North America by taking a new
approach, one that addresses the causes of crime.
    A Conference Board of Canada publication, Making Communities Safer:
Lessons Learned Combatting Auto Theft in Winnipeg, describes how
evidence-based crime prevention-which analyses crime problems, determines
their likely causes, and implements programs to address those causes-can make
a tangible difference in crime rates.
    "Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that Canada has relatively
high crime levels compared to some other developed countries, particularly
with respect to property crime. Based on Winnipeg's efforts to reduce auto
theft, an evidence-based approach to crime prevention holds the greatest
promise for making communities safer," said Rick Linden, author of the
briefing, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba, and co-chair
of the Manitoba Auto Theft Task Force.
    "This approach addresses the causes of crime, rather than focusing
exclusively on either 'law-and-order' measures or social programs."
    Auto theft rates in Winnipeg skyrocketed in the 1990s, and, from 2003 to
2006, the city had the highest rates in North America. Tackling the problem
required authorities to answer the question why: auto theft had become part of
the youth culture in some areas of the city, and vehicles were being stolen
for joyriding or for use as temporary transportation.
    Efforts to bring the rate of auto thefts under control began in 2001. In
2005, the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy was launched. The three
main components of the program were based on strategies that have been
successful in other jurisdictions:

    - Increased focus on controlling high-rate offenders-For example, curfews
      are enforced for chronic offenders released into the community, with
      check-ins as frequently as every three hours.
    - Installation of electronic immobilizers in vehicles-With the support
      and partnership of Manitoba Public Insurance, vehicles at the highest
      risk of being stolen are provided with free immobilizers and all
      vehicles with these immobilizers are given reduced auto insurance
      premiums. As a result, 78,000 devices have been installed in the
      vehicle models that are the most likely targets for theft.
    - Programs dealing with the root causes of auto theft-Youth are grouped
      into four categories (ranging from "at risk of stealing cars" to
      "high-risk offenders"), depending on the degree to which individuals
      are involved in auto theft, with different approaches taken for each

    Data from the Winnipeg Police Service indicate that auto thefts dropped
by 27 per cent in 2007, to their lowest level since 2001 (although attempted
thefts rose by nine per cent). Actual thefts were down a further 42 per cent
in the first nine months of 2008. The daily average of about 10 thefts per day
is a 58 per cent drop from the 2004 daily average.
    The publication, part of the Conference Board's research on National
Security and Public Safety, is available free of charge at

For further information:

For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, (613) 526-3090,

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