Regina police outline new strategy to tackle city’s auto theft problem

The Regina Police Service (RPS) is looking for more help from community partners to tackle the city’s rampant auto theft problem, as part of a revamped strategy announced Wednesday.

Part of the solution may be an Offender Management Unit that RPS Chief Evan Bray hopes will come to fruition in the next year or two, bringing community partners together to address the complex needs and challenges of offenders.

“No longer are we seeing the number of infractions involving underage youth stealing vehicles for joyriding,” said a report presented to the Board of Police Commissioners. “More and more, offenders are motivated by drugs or as part of larger criminal activity.”

In an attempt to reinvigorate its auto theft strategy, the RPS has met with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing and embarked on a number of collaborative initiatives including public education, regular meetings between partner agencies and initial discussion on the establishment of an Offender Management Unit.

Together, the RPS and its partners have acknowledged crystal methamphetamine as a root cause of the increase in auto thefts in the city.

“This is why this renewed strategy, although tightly woven with partners the way our old strategy was, this one we probably rely on our partners even more to try and help us with that after-arrest and after-custody care,” said Bray. “Someone with an addiction problem, if they’re not properly supported they’re going to find themselves right back in that same situation."

He said the RPS doesn’t have the ability to provide wrap-around care and support on its own, and needs community partners to help offenders get connected with the social supports they need, whatever they may be.

According to the report, the Stolen Auto Unit typically arrests three or four prolific, often violent, offenders in a seven-day-period.

In 2018, RPS received 1,639 reports of auto theft. Of those, 1,417 were complete and 222 were attempted. Of the 1,417 completed auto thefts, 510, or 36 per cent, were stolen with keys inside the vehicle. In 255 cases, almost 16 per cent, complainants reported their keys had either been lost or stolen.

As part of the new strategy, RPS and its two partner agencies will resume regularly scheduled meetings to “increase communication and commitment to offender management.”

It will also seek out other government ministries or community-based organizations to assist in offender management and offer programs to assist offenders.

“The work that we’ve undertaken right now is to try to make us more relevant to the conditions that we’re facing now,” said Deputy Chief Dean Rae.

Rae said it’s too early to tell whether or not additional officers will be needed if the Offender Management Unit is established, or whether officers will simply be reassigned.

Bray said the RPS looked at what other cities are doing to combat similar issues when they were looking at updating their own auto theft strategy, and save for different partners, the strategies are almost identical.

“Lots of work that has to be done collaboratively from the health side of it, understanding that a big piece of this is addiction-driven,” he said. “Support that focuses them on getting better and prevents them from getting back into this stream of criminal behaviour is an important part of it.”