Most communities in Saskatchewan are quite safe, but that doesn't mean that you should test your luck by leaving your car unlocked.

Some people may be under the assumption that having vehicle insurance means that the contents of your vehicle are insured as well. Unfortunately, that is incorrect.

"If the contents of your vehicle are taken, the contents of the vehicle are not covered under basic auto plate insurance in Saskatchewan," stated Marie Schultz, Communications Consultant for SGI. "That would fall under a home policy and if the vehicle was stolen it would be covered under the basic auto plates in Saskatchewan, but subject to the deductable."

If your vehicle is unlocked, it is still covered under your insurance. It just means that the thief will have a much easier time robbing you of your belongings. Also, if it is more difficult for the criminal to enter your vehicle, it increases the odds that a bystander may witness the break-in.

"Don't be affraid to call in to the Police Station if you did see something that's a little questionable," said Constable Darcy Cleasby, of the Weyburn Police Service. "We can always decipher further down what we need on our end, but the more information for the Police the better."

Loose items may not be covered by your insurance, but items that are considered to be part of the vehicle are.

"Something that's part of the vehicle, like your sterio system or radio would be covered," said Schultz. "Because it's a permanent fixture in your vehicle. But if you have a bag of camping gear or something in your vehicle that's stolen, that's not covered under your basic plate insurance."

Criminals are usually looking for an easy target. So a vehicle with the windows rolled down and the key in the ignition would be their first choice.

"I'd like to incourage the residents of Weyburn and the surrounding areas to lock your vehicles, and sheds, houses, garages, everything that you're not using," said Cleasby. "More often than not, people go into property because it's unlocked. So lock your vehicles, and if you're not planning on locking them, don't leave anything that would entice someone into coming into your vehicle or property. Such as change, CDs, Ipads, phones, or any other items like that."

If you can, it is a good idea to install a reliable anti-theft device or alarm. However, if you leave your windows down or the doors unlocked your alarm won't do you any good.

Statistics Canada estimates that there's one car theft in Canada every 7 minutes, and one car break-in every 3 minutes. Even though these numbers are trending downward, car theft remains one of the most prevalent property crimes in the country.

Why is car theft so common? For one thing, the recovery rate of stolen vehicles is quite low, which could leave thieves with an inflated sense of anonymity and safety. Car theft is also one of the most lucrative crimes, offering criminals large payouts for redistributing whole cars to unsuspecting customers or selling individual parts to chop shops.

All told, car theft costs Canadians nearly $600 million per year.

There are a number of simple car theft prevention methods you can take to help secure your ride in Canada:

Always turn off and lock up.

It takes thieves an average of just 30 seconds to steal a car — no need to make it any faster for them! Even if you're just picking up dry cleaning, avoid the temptation to leave the car running or the doors unlocked.

Take your keys.

If you do choose to leave your car unlocked (which, again, we wouldn't), at least grab your keys. A dangling set of keys left in the ignition might as well be a "Steal Me!" sign on your bumper.

Invest in antitheft devices.

Car alarms are helpful, but they’re just the tip of the car-theft-prevention iceberg. You can also consider steering wheel locks and protective steering columns, as well as car-disabling locks for the ignition, fuel, and other systems. And an installed tracking system can help the police locate your car if it is stolen.

Keep your ID on you.

Avoid leaving your driver's licence, car registration, or other personal documents of this nature in the vehicle. If a thief makes off with your ride and is pulled over before the incident's been reported, he or she could try to use your ID as proof that you lent the car willingly.

Park in well-lit areas.

Visibility is a car thief's worst enemy. They don't want to be spotted and identified, so they're less likely to mess with a car that's parked under bright lights.

Make your car a towing headache.

When parking, turn your wheels toward the curb (unless you're parked uphill) and pull the handbrake to make your car that much less mobile. This could deter would-be thieves who want to tow your ride away quickly and quietly.

Shut your windows and sunroof.

Leaving your windows cracked when parked in hot weather can mean a mercifully cooler ride upon your return, but it's not worth the risk (unless you have a pet in the car, of course, which you should try to avoid). Even the tiniest opening invites break-ins. If you're worried your car will get too hot sitting on the street or in a parking lot, look for spots under trees or invest in sun shades.

Don't leave valuables in plain sight.

Items like shopping bags, suitcases, and smartphones entice thieves. Keep all valuables in the trunk if you have to leave them in your car.

At the end of the day, only you have the power to prevent your car from being burglarized or even worse, stolen. So be careful no matter where you live.

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