John Bishop is one of many volunteers in Parksville Qualicum Beach dedicated to preventing theft in the region.
Bishop is a member of the Oceanside Community Safety Volunteers, who patrol the streets, parks and different public places in the summer months, looking at vehicles and identifying risks that could lead to auto break-ins.
Among the many common things they look out for include an open window, valuables such as cash, laptops and purchases that are left visible on the seats inside the car, expired decals, and garage-door openers left inside the car.
“We don’t touch the vehicles,” said Bishop, who has been doing this for more than 20 years. “All we do is observe and look if it is safe or not. If we see all the risks, we put a ‘love note’, as we call them, on the windshield to inform car owners of things we have found that could lead to auto crime.”
And if the vehicle is secure, Bishop said they still leave a note but with a nicely drawn happy face or a smiley to indicate to the owners that they did a good job of preventing auto crime.
“What we’re basically doing is helping people to protect themselves from getting hurt from crime,” said Bishop.
ICBC reported that police data last year showed 58,500 vehicles were broken into and 10,000 were stolen in B.C.
Bishop believes education is key to deterring auto theft in the region. He has heard car owners make excuses of leaving car windows partially open because it is hot. But it’s not safe, he said.
“I can grab that window and pull it right out of the car and I’m not strong,” said Bishop. “You’d be surprised how many people leave things in their car in full view. It is really, really amazing how many people do this. They might leave an empty computer case but thieves don’t know that and they are going to break a window to get to it. You end up paying a $500 deductible to get it fixed.”
Bishop advises against leaving garage-door openers in the car as it is an invitation for thieves to come and visit their home.
“They can easily look at the address in the registration of the car,” he said.
Bishop noted some people in the community remain unaware of what the Oceanside Community Safety Volunteers do.
“If anyone gets a ‘love note’ from us, I want everyone to know it’s a message on prevention,” said Bishop. “The NEWS reports on the crimes that are happening after the fact. Who is preventing it?”
Bishop said the City of Parksville, the Town of Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo appreciate the work of the volunteers and they have received many of favourable comments from the community.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Bishop.
The volunteers are also involved with a myriad of community programs and services that include bicycle registration, child car safety, child identification, medical alert kits, senior safety seminars, speed watches and block watches.