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Winnipeg vehicles stolen as cars left running in cold weather

ignition key 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt
Many winter vehicle thefts in Winnipeg are of cars left with the key in the ignition, police say. Molly Riley / The Canadian Press files

WINNIPEG – Scores of cars stolen in Winnipeg last winter were left with keys inside them, statistics from Manitoba Public Insurance show.

Winnipeg police, CAA Manitoba and MPI are urging drivers not to leave their cars unattended and running no matter how cold it is outside.

“Reports of stolen vehicles have been received as a result of those vehicles being left unattended while they were warming up,” a Winnipeg police news release said Monday.

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The numbers for December haven’t been compiled yet, Const. Eric Hofley of the Winnipeg Police Service said, but in November, 17 vehicles that were left running were stolen. Another 10 vehicles that were stolen weren’t running, but a key had been left in the car, Hofley said. Those 27 vehicles accounted for 23 per cent of the thefts in November, when the temperature didn’t drop below -20 C until the night of Nov. 24, Environment Canada data shows.

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During the winter of 2013-14, 162 vehicle thefts involved vehicles with keys left in the ignition or elsewhere in the car, a joint news release from MPI and CAA Manitoba says.

“For the three month period from December 2013 to February 2014, there were 269 thefts involving keys. Our analysis reported that 162 of these thefts – 60 per cent – involved keys left in the ignition or somewhere within the vehicle,” MPI vice-president MaryAnn Kempe said in the news release.

Excessive idling is costly both for the person running the vehicle and in environmental terms, the news release stated.

“Even during extreme cold temperatures, a vehicle’s engine only needs a few minutes to warm up,” CAA Manitoba president Mike Mager said. “To reduce warmup time, plug in your vehicle when it’s colder than -18 C.”

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