By Tyler Renaud 
BELLEVILLE – With the start of the holiday season upon us, police are reminding vehicle owners that if they don’t lock it they will lose it.
“The OPP along with the OACP are trying to raise public awareness around the dangers of leaving vehicles unlocked and/or leaving valuables in plain sight,” said Constable Karen German, media relations officer for the Northumberland OPP.
As part of the campaign, officers check vehicles to see if they’re unlocked. If they are, the officers try to secure the vehicle.
However, German said, “if the windows and/or locks are automatic or the vehicle is locked with valuables in plain sight there’s nothing we can do.”
Officers in the town of Campbellford  checked 438 cars on Oct. 25 between 9 and 11:30 a.m. Of the vehicles checked, 51 were unlocked, one key was in view, 50 had valuables in plain sight, and five had open windows.
German said people need to change their habits when it comes to securing their vehicles.
“We need to eliminate this attitude of ‘It won’t happen to me,’ ” she said.
As an example of how costly a lack of vigilance can be, she cited a case where a thief entered multiple cars in the Brighton  area last March 11. Keys, digital cameras, GPS units, satellite radios, wallets and identification were stolen. In one case, $30,000 worth of telecommunication equipment was stolen from an unlocked vehicle.
The overall number of car thefts across Canada has decreased by 57 per cent from a decade ago, German said. However, car theft still costs Canadian taxpayers $1 billion annually when the costs of police, courts and incarceration are taken into account, she said.
Included in that $1 billion price tag is money lost through identity theft and fraud, she said.
“Identity theft is the focus of this campaign because the actual number of car thefts have decreased” while the number of cases of identity theft and fraud across Canada have increased substantially, she said.
Identity-theft thieves “look for documents that can assume identities, secure credit cards or lease vehicles for export. In some cases mortgages have been taken out by the thief in the name of the victim,” German said.
The Lock It or Lose It campaign is important because the police “would rather prevent a crime than deal with investigating one,” she said.