Calgary police warn of new auto theft trend
The Calgary Police Service Auto Theft Unit has laid 23 charges against one individual and is warning citizens about a new trend for stealing vehicles.
At the end of August 2017, the Auto Theft Unit, comprised of a District Operations Team and the Auto Theft Resource Team, identified a crime trend in which offenders posed as potential car buyers in both dealership and private sale settings. The offenders then used a fake driver’s licence to take a vehicle for a test drive, leaving the car they arrived in behind as collateral. Once on the test drive, another offender would appear in the original car and drive this vehicle away as well. In most cases, the original vehicle was also stolen.
Members of the Auto Theft Unit identified one offender who was believed to be linked to at least seven incidents in Calgary and 15 throughout southern Alberta.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, investigators received information that the suspect was in the Red Deer area. The suspect was seen driving a Subaru Impreza, which had been stolen in Calgary the previous day and was bearing a licence plate recently stolen from the Red Deer area. Officers notified the Red Deer RCMP, who were able to arrest the offender and three occupants of the vehicle without incident in Red Deer.
A search of the vehicle found numerous sets of keys, multiple stolen identification documents, fake identification documents, vehicle registration documents belonging to confirmed stolen vehicles and weapons including a machete and a baseball bat.
Sebastian Thomas TAIT, 22, of Calgary, has since been charged with five counts of failing to comply with a probation order, four counts of identity theft, three counts of operating a motor vehicle while disqualified, three counts of possession of identity documents, three counts of driving an uninsured motor vehicle and one count each of identity fraud, using forged documents, fraud, theft under $5,000 and theft of a motor vehicle. TAIT was also arrested on 10 outstanding warrants.
This investigation is ongoing and more charges are anticipated. Officers would like to thank the RCMP for their assistance in this investigation.
Police are offering these tips to citizens and businesses conducting vehicle sales:
- Never meet in a secluded place. CPS invites citizens to use the parking lots of district offices to facilitate sales arranged online. The presence of law enforcement or video surveillance may deter unlawful behaviour.
- Ask the buyer for multiple pieces identification and confirm the information listed on each is consistent. Take a photo of it for your reference.
- Ask the buyer multiple questions to ensure they are actually interested in purchasing a vehicle. Vague and inconsistent answers should be considered red flags.
- Use text messaging or phone calls instead of emails to arrange a sale, as these forms of communication can be traced more easily.
- If possible, arrange to meet at an automotive garage where the vehicle’s quality can be assured, instead of offering a test drive.
- If you are considering letting someone test drive your vehicle, meet in a public place and ask how the prospective buyer got there. Record the licence plate of that vehicle and make sure you have something of theirs as collateral. If you’re planning on accompanying the prospective buyer on a test drive, bring someone else with you. Always set a time limit for the test drive before you give them the keys and make sure you’ve removed any valuables or important documents first.
- If you aren’t comfortable conducting a sale, walk away or use a reputable auto dealer.
- If you are buying a vehicle, search if it has been reported stolen here: http://www.cpic-cipc.ca/.