Vancouver Auto Theft Program Gives Youths a Free Car

A novel program launched in Vancouver to attempt to curb auto theft aims to pique the interest of troubled youths in vehicular restoration and mechanical skills.

The program is called NASKARZ – Never Again Steal KARZ (Cars) – and is intended to reduce the incidents of auto theft for joyriding.

It is based on a similar program in Tasmania, Australia called Project U-Turn that has proven to reduce the incidents of auto theft.

Under the program, groups of youths in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Strathcona and Grandview Woodlands areas are provided a donated a car to restore under the supervision of representatives from the Vancouver Police Department, Vancouver Community College and the Insurance Corp. of B.C. who work closely with participants.

The police, college and the Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Centre have partnered to develop and sponsor the program.

The first group in the program this spring began restoration work on a 1935 Ford. Participants learn basic automotive skills and acquire an appreciation for vehicular maintenance and property value.

In an article about the program, Nigel Matthews, the ICBC’s manager of specialty vehicles, wrote that he’s optimistic the program will have a positive impact on troubled youths. He notes that traditional measures used to fight auto crime result in fines, probation or jail terms and are not long-term solutions. “These young offenders need direction and the NASKARZ program will give them that and much more,” he wrote.

Vancouver authorities were able to identify a trend by youths stealing vehicles for joy rides through its Bait Car program in which cars are planted and rendered relatively accessible, then monitored when stolen to guarantee the culprit(s) capture.

The ICBC has jointly launched an ad campaign with the slogan, “Bait Cars are Everywhere – Steal a Bait Car – Go to Jail”.

Since the Bait Car program launch in 2004, incidents of auto theft in Vancouver and B.C.’s lower mainland have dropped by 35 per cent.

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