In addition to locking up your shovels, you better make sure you lock up your car, especially in Quebec.

A Gatineau bylaw that has been on the books for years is catching a few motorists off guard. It requires drivers to lock their car doors when they leave their vehicles or face a hefty fine.

On the surface, it seems like a pretty silly idea not to lock your car when you leave it. After all, it's an easy invitation to thieves.

But an Ottawa man says fining someone who hasn’t is a punitive measure for a crime that didn't happen.

A Christmas luncheon turned into a costlier venture for David Carriere.  The Ottawa man was meeting colleagues at a Gatineau restaurant last week on St. Joseph Boulevard. 

While parking his car, he was distracted by what he says appeared to be a man dressed in black skulking around the parking lot.

“He was going from car to car and looking in like this,” he says, as though peering into a car window, “and I thought I was seeing someone robbing cars or something like that.”

“As he got closer, it was apparent he was wearing a uniform and I took him to be a security guard,” Carriere continues, “patrolling to making sure the people using the parking lot were also using the services of the shops, etc.”

When Carriere entered the restaurant, he realized he had forgotten to lock his car.  He went back outside to do that and was greeted by a police officer.

“He said, “I have to give you a ticket,” and I said, “No I'm at the Baton Rouge, it's okay if I park here,” and he said it's for not having your car doors locked.”

The ticket, which is province-wide under the Quebec Highway Safety Act, states that the holder is notified that the statement of offence is being served for not locking the automobile doors, in accordance with c. 91, s. 380 which states, “No person may leave unattended a road vehicle that is in his custody without previously removing the ignition key and locking the doors.”

Carriere says when he told his colleagues at the luncheon about the fine, one of his co-workers said the same police officer had warned him to make sure his doors were locked.  Carriere says he spoke with that officer before entering the restaurant, thinking he was a security guard and no warning was issued to him.  Just the ticket.

The fine is $52. So far this year, Gatineau has issued 467 tickets, down from 516 the year before.

Sgt. Jean-Paul Le May is with the Gatineau Police force and says the fine has been in force for more than 30 years, since he first joined the force.  It is designed to try to thwart opportunity theft.

 “We call out to all citizens to help us prevent crime,” says Sgt. Le May, “and an easy way to prevent crime is by locking your doors either from your car or your house.”

This law doesn’t exist in Ontario, under the Highway Traffic Act, nor do Ottawa Police fine for this reason.  But it doesn't mean the idea wasn't tossed around.  Several years ago, an Ottawa police officer suggested levying a small fine against drivers who left their car doors unlocked as a deterrent to thieves. That is as far as that idea got.

Carriere posted his experience on Facebook, saying that if the fine was to protect him from being robbed, the Gatineau criminals have none of his money but the Gatineau police will soon have $52 bucks.

But some Gatineau residents say the fine doesn't go high enough.

“C'est pas assez, c'est pas assez, ”  says one man.

“It’s an effective way,” says another man about the fine.

“I’m sure it would discourage people from trying to break into cars,” adds a woman.

Carriere isn't sure whether he will fight the fine.  If he loses, it'll cost him another $89 in court fees.