A joint call for action to combat auto theft and joyriding wasmade today, Nov. 24, by the Nova Scotia government, InsuranceBureau of Canada, RCMP and Halifax Regional Police Service. “There have been too many tragic stories here at home and acrossCanada to ignore this serious public safety issue any longer,”said Justice Minister Michael Baker. “The federal governmentneeds to act now. The public needs greater protection fromirresponsible people who steal vehicles and recklessly threatenthe lives of innocent people.” Mr. Baker joined Richard Dubin, vice-president of investigations,Insurance Bureau of Canada, Inspector Matt Lowther, RCMP, andChris McNeil, deputy police chief, Halifax Regional PoliceService, in calling for tougher laws to protect the public. Mr. Baker said that auto theft and the so-called “joyriding”theft of a vehicle should be indictable offences, which wouldcarry stricter sentences. He also recommends that auto theft becategorized as a violent offence under the federal Youth CriminalJustice Act, not a property offence. This would make it possibleto keep young offenders in custody before a trial and sentencing. “In the current criminal justice system, there is effectively nodeterrent to stealing a car,” said Mr. Dubin. “Both the CriminalCode and the Youth Criminal Justice Act need to be changed sothat auto theft is recognized as a specific indictable, violentoffence rather than the simple theft of property. The would-becar thief, in particular the juvenile car thief, must know thatthere is a risk of serious punishment prior to getting involvedin auto theft. If these serious deterrents were put in placenationally, we could potentially prevent further loss of life andstop many young criminals from taking up a life of crime that toooften starts with auto theft.” said Mr. Dubin. “The hazardous pursuits that often result from auto theftscommitted by youths can have deadly consequences,” said InspectorLowther, officer in charge, Nova Scotia RCMP traffic services.”The RCMP supports a review of legislation to ensure thatsentencing in these cases fits the crime.” “Theft of motor vehicles is a serious public safety concern,”said Mr. McNeil. “A stolen car in the hands of an immature andinexperienced youth is as dangerous as a loaded gun. The justicesystem needs to take the issue of stolen vehicles more seriously,as current sentences for stolen cars are inadequate to deter thiscrime.” Mr. Baker will travel to Ottawa to lobby for changes to thefederal Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Criminal Code ofCanada. He will also seek support from his provincialcounterparts during the annual justice ministers’ meeting to beheld in Ottawa from Jan. 24-26, 2005. In Nova Scotia, more than 2,700 motor vehicles were stolen in2003, the latest year for which statistics are available. Thatrepresents a 52 per cent increase during the 1993-2003 period.