Edmonton police encouraging drivers to remove valuables from vehicles: ‘It is a big problem’

Click to play video 'Edmonton police demonstrate how vulnerable people are to having their cars broken into' Edmonton police demonstrate how vulnerable people are to having their cars broken into
Watch above: It's Crime Prevention Week in Edmonton and police are encouraging drivers to help protect their possessions and their vehicles from thieves. Acting Staff Sgt. Paul Looker walked through Southgate Centre's parking lot to show us how easy it is for criminals to find things to steal – May 15, 2017

Since January, 1,700 vehicles have been reported stolen in Edmonton, according to police.

Add to that another 3,100 reports of theft from vehicles and you have a serious problem for local law enforcement.

“It is a big problem and it has been for some time,” Acting Staff Sgt. Paul Looker said Monday.

“Everyone’s responsible for not being a victim and taking the opportunity away from the criminal.”

As part of Crime Prevention Week, the Edmonton Police Service teamed up with future police officers, firefighters and paramedics to let commuters know the dangers of leaving valuables in a vehicle.

Students from Centre High’s Emergency Response Pathways Program stood outside Southgate Centre on Monday, handing out flyers reminding drivers to lock their vehicles.

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“They need to lock their vehicles and most importantly, take away all valuables when they leave their vehicles,” Looker said. “Don’t leave anything in sight whether it’s coins, lighters, other small things.”

WATCH: Thief seen prowling Airdrie neighbourhood for unlocked vehicles

The police chose Southgate Centre because of its proximity to the LRT station.

“Thieves know where people leave their cars for long periods of time,” Looker said. “It gives them more of an opportunity to look around.

“In these kinds of parking lots, they will go around and try the doors first. They’ll go for the unlocked vehicles at this time of day because of the noise breaking in makes, and it’s quicker.”

Looker said it’s not always big-ticket items thieves will break in for.

Watch below: Edmonton police have already received 3,100 calls this year regarding thefts from vehicles. As Sarah Kraus reports, police are hoping educating drivers will go a long way to reducing crime.

Click to play video 'Edmonton police warn about dangers of leaving valuables in vehicles' Edmonton police warn about dangers of leaving valuables in vehicles
Edmonton police warn about dangers of leaving valuables in vehicles – May 16, 2017

“We’ve had everything from a couple of bucks in loose coins, to cigarette lighters – right through to your laptops, computers systems and some people even leave TVs in their cars for some reason.”

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Using the Southgate Centre parking lot as an example, Looker went around from vehicle to vehicle, looking for the same types of things criminals might.

“There is a little kids’ bike in the back,” he said, pointing to a truck. “Might not seem much to the owner, but these are quick pickings.”

Looker said charging cables are also a big target for thieves because they indicate the driver owns either a phone, tablet or computer and may have left it in the vehicle somewhere.

He also noticed drivers hiding things on the backseat, often through tinted windows.

One van in the lot was even left completely unlocked, with a window down.

“As you can see, it’s quick, it’s easy and the thief could be in in seconds. Inside, in the back here, there’s power tools and equipment for work and the console has got a whole load of stuff in it. This would be ideal for a criminal.”

Out of the dozen vehicles the officer checked at random, only one driver had taken the proper precautions.

“Just to show you a good one – this one is locked and there’s nothing to see inside it.”