Pre-owned auto dealerships in Langley City are being pummeled by thieves, who are not just stealing vehicles but leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
Wade Wutke, owner of What Key Auto Sales, has seen almost every window of his show room smashed during the past two months.
So many of his vehicles have been used to smash through windows and entry doors to his showroom that he has had to install expensive cement bollards to prevent it from continuing.
He isn’t alone. A number of pre-owned auto dealers in the 19600 block to 20000 block of Fraser Highway have been victimized by vandals and thieves, costing owners tens of thousands of dollars. If things continue as they have, it could cost them their livelihood too, they say.
“It’s been brutal. It’s never ending,” said Karl Schifferns, owner of KS Auto Market. “We are pretty used to getting the gas siphoned from the cars, but nothing like this. We have locks punched out, doors and windows smashed in, trucks stolen.”
On Feb. 2, four vehicles were damaged. The same F350 was stolen three times in three weeks. And each time police find it, he has to pay to get it out of the tow yard and have it fixed and detailed.
It’s the same story story at What Key Auto Sales.
Wutke’s business has been located at 196 Street and Fraser Highway for eight years but, said he theft and vandalism has never before been this bad.
On Christmas Day he got a call that a sports car from the showroom had been stolen and used to smash through three of his bay windows, crashing into another vehicle on the way out. In order to steal the sports car, the thieves actually had to physically move another sports car in the show room.
To replace the glass costs thousands of dollars.
It wasn’t the first time he had been hit but the problem this time was that no glass companies were open because of the holiday. Police were kind enough to stand watch for a few hours into the night, he said.
Then on New Year’s Eve, thieves used a vehicle to smash through the front glass doors, bending the frame and stealing a Z350. The thieves managed to hit another vehicle on the way out. That truck was a write-off.
Wutke was told that police took to the skies to track the thieves. Surrey RCMP arrested two young men. The sports car was recovered but was a write-off.
“It just goes on and on. And sometimes they use the vehicles to commit other crimes, but other times they just smash the vehicle up and dump it,” he said.
Thieves stole a Dodge Ram from his lot and police found it in Prince George. They used a spike belt in that case, which meant Wutke had to replace the wheels and tires on the truck.
“Each time we get a vehicle back, we have to pay the tow yard hundreds of dollars,” he said.
Two vehicles were stolen recently from another dealership in the 19900 block of Fraser Highway.
That video footage shows the thieves cutting the fencing and peeling it back so they could drive the vehicles out.
“We are just trying to make a living, but it’s becoming so difficult. I don’t know what the answer is,” said Wutke.
Both Wutke and Schifferns believe the blame doesn’t lie with the homeless, but with those who are heavily addicted to drugs and who have been caught up in the criminal lifestyle.
“It’s not going to get any better, but if it gets too much do I move out of Langley City?” asked Schifferns. “I really like it here and don’t want to move, but something has to give here.”
Langley RCMP report that statistics show that crime levels in the area fall within the ‘normal’ range. They haven’t seen a spike, said Cpl. Holly Largy.