January 7, 2016 8:16 pm
Updated: January 7, 2016 8:40 pm

Calgary drug trade behind rise in licence plate thefts

WATCH ABOVE: Vehicle thefts have been surging across Alberta recently and now, the province's two largest cities are also seeing a spike in the theft of vehicle licence plates. Bindu Suri looks at how police in Calgary and Edmonton are addressing the problem.

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CALGARY- It only takes seconds for someone to steal your licence plate and it’s happening a lot more often across Alberta lately. Calgary is seeing some of its highest-ever licence plate thefts while the numbers are surging in Alberta’s capital as well.

Chris Karpuk rarely drives into downtown for work, but when he did so recently, his licence plate was stolen from his SUV.

“It (SUV) was reported having stolen gas this afternoon,” Karpuk said. “So I obviously said ‘that wasn’t me, I was at work all day.'”

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He checked his SUV and noticed his licence plate was missing. It was stolen from a downtown parking lot earlier that day.

“I reported it stolen. I went to the registry and made sure my name wasn’t associated with that plate at all,” he said.

Calgary police said it’s happening a lot more often. There has been an 80 per cent jump in licence plate thefts from 2014 to 2015. In Edmonton, the spike isn’t as dramatic but police there say licence plate thefts are up 18.5 per cent over the same timeframe.

In Calgary at least, it’s believed the drug trade is driving the thievery.

“This could be correlated to the number of stolen vehicles used for other crimes,” said Staff Sgt. Kristie Verheul with the Calgary Police Service.

For years the Edmonton Police Service has offered anti-theft screws for free.

“Here in Edmonton, there’s such a demand for these screws, we are not able to keep up. There’s a bit of a back order,” said Sgt. Steve Sharpe from the Edmonton Police Service.

Sharpe added that he expects anti-theft screws will soon be available at Edmonton police stations again once those orders come in.

Calgary police are now considering whether to provide Calgarians with anti-theft screws as well.

The Edmonton Police Service says criminals will steal licence plates so that the vehicle they use to commit an offence isn’t connected to the crime. Thieves may also use the plates to disguise a stolen vehicle or to get away with traffic violations.

In addition to using ant-theft screws, Edmonton police say there’s a few other ways Albertans can reduce the chances of having their plates stolen:

-Park in well-lit areas
-Park in well-populated areas
-Keep the back of your vehicle adjacent to driving lanes (don’t back in to parking spots)
-Check your licence plates often

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