Car theft continues to be a scourge on the Prairies with older-model Ford trucks maintaining pole position as the most popular target for thieves in Alberta, new data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada shows.

Thefts of vehicles in Alberta has jumped 56 per cent over the past five years, placing Wild Rose Country as the hot bed of Canadian vehicle crime. The numbers in 2017 have climbed six per cent over the previous year.

The Canadian average for theft rates per 100,000 vehicles in 2017 hovers around 230. In rural Alberta that number explodes to about 700 thefts per 100,000 vehicles.

Numbers released last year showed that a smidgen over 22,800 vehicles were stolen in Alberta, or roughly one-quarter of all vehicles stolen across Canada in 2016, and on a per-capita basis, Alberta was behind only Quebec for stolen unrecovered vehicles.

In 2016, an estimated 3,500 vehicles went unrecovered in Alberta, while that number across Canada was closer to 22,000.

This year the 2006 F-250 pickup was the No. 1 most stolen vehicle ahead of the 2004, 2006 and 2007 models of the F-350. Two hatchbacks — the 1996 and 2000 Honda Civic — also made the list.

National director of investigative services, John Tod, said in an interview Monday that part of the reason is that there are simply more Ford pickup trucks in Alberta and Western Canada.

Not much has changed in terms of why the trucks are being stolen — for some it is a crime of opportunity to steal what’s in plain view, others scour the vehicle for documents that will help in person fraud or help clone vehicles. while others go on joyrides. Then there are the organized criminals.

“If you are organized, and you have the proper network of people, it is a very high reward and low-risk initiative,” Tod said.

Those vehicles are being shipped on cargo ships to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and even down to countries in the Caribbean, Tod said.

Tod said the bureau is working with the Canada Border Security Agency to monitor the situation and work out how to stem the tide while auto manufacturers are working hard to make newer models harder to steal with improvements to key fob technology and electronics in the operating system of the vehicles.

jgraney@postmedia.com

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