Ken Pugh argues ICBC should reform its rules on keeping original insurance papers in the vehicle.

ICBC could help curb home break-ins: Critic

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  • Jun. 9, 2011 6:00 a.m.

ICBC officials say they’ll look at loosening the requirement to keep auto insurance papers in the vehicle – a rule some owners say leaves them vulnerable to home burglars.

Thieves sometimes break into vehicles, get the address of the owner from the insurance papers, and then go loot the home. Some even use a garage door opener from the car to get inside.

Chilliwack university instructor Ken Pugh has been pressing ICBC to act.

He says crooks going for the car-home break-in combo target vehicles likely to be parked for hours at places like movie theatres, trail heads and churches.

“Sometimes they even slash the tires so the owners can’t get home quickly,” he said. “They’ve got it down to an art.”

That threat could be eliminated, Pugh said, if ICBC let owners keep their original car insurance papers at home and use a photocopy in the vehicle with the address blacked out if they’re stopped by police.

So far, ICBC officials maintain originals must stay with the vehicle and it would take provincial legislation to change that rule.

“We’re taking a look at what can be done to address these concerns,” ICBC spokesperson Kathy Taylor said. “Sometimes a quick fix to a process is possible, but we want to exercise due diligence to make sure we wouldn’t be creating any larger issues.”

Meanwhile, ICBC recommends storing the originals in a hidden panel or secure storage box in the vehicle or else taking them with you when you’re away from your car.

But carrying a sheaf of insurance documents is impractical, said Pugh.

“I’d need a man-purse,” he said. “A wallet’s not big enough.”

And he doubts any hiding place inside a vehicle would be thief-proof.

He argues B.C. could simply follow the lead of Saskatchewan, which provides a wallet-sized card for proof of insurance and allows drivers to keep the original documents at home.

“ICBC has been very slow to react to this,” he said, adding he has neighbours who are afraid to leave their homes after a flurry of break-ins.

The auto insurer doesn’t seem to care if criminals target homes, he said, but added the provincial government should if it’s serious about public safety and protecting families.

“This is an outdated procedure that is no longer in the interests of public safety.”

Pugh wants Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond to intervene and is also asking B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to investigate and potentially order ICBC to change its policy.

The RCMP publicly cautioned motorists this spring against leaving identifying documents such as insurance in vehicles, most recently after a flurry of thefts from the homes of church-goers in Abbotsford.

RCMP E Division spokesperson Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said it’s likely rare that burglars target homes using insurance paperwork, but added it’s wise to take precautions.

“Our advice would not be to leave the documents in the vehicle,” he said. “Carry them with you.”

A thief stopped by police in a stolen vehicle would also be unable to produce documents and pass himself off as a legitimate operator, he added.

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