Police across Alberta see surge in idling vehicle thefts as temperatures drop
The day after a Mountie had his patrol SUV rammed by a stolen pickup truck, the RCMP is joining other Alberta police departments about warning drivers against leaving their cars running unattended.
On Wednesday, the RCMP vehicle was hit by a truck that was pinched by a suspect while idling outside a Red Deer home.
“Although trucks are predominantly the vehicle of choice, don’t forget to secure your other motor vehicles, like quads, tractors and snowmobiles,” RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters said in a news release on Thursday.
“We have a recent example of a situation where a tractor was stolen and used to ram and disable a police vehicle. These situations are potentially deadly.”
Peters’ example is similar to an incident the RCMP was involved in on Wednesday night in Red Deer.
According to police, officers responded to a report of a suspicious pickup truck driving erratically on one rim in the city. At 9:45 p.m., they said the truck was found in a remote part of the city and under a bridge. Mounties said the responding officer turned their lights on and approached the truck when it “suddenly reversed and rammed the front of the police SUV.”
“The truck that was being driven erratically was reported stolen from a residence in Red Deer, where it was idling, with keys, in the driveway,” the RCMP said in a news release on Thursday, adding the truck also had a quad in the back.
“It rammed a police K-9 vehicle,” Peters said.
“Fortunately, the officer and dog on board were not injured in that but we do continue to see vehicles used as weapons against our members.”
View photos in gallery below: Photos of Alberta RCMP vehicles after they’ve been rammed.
Christopher Wickins-Pearse, 21, of Red Deer has been charged in connection with that incident but on Thursday, the RCMP also warned about how widespread the problem of vehicles stolen while idling is.
“Auto thieves are roaming neighbourhoods and rural areas looking for a quick opportunity,” Mounties said in a statement. “It takes less than a minute to get in a vehicle and drive away.
“The mindset of a driver of a stolen vehicle is not always rational. Situations involving stolen vehicles can have a significant impact on public safety and recently, police safety.”
The Alberta RCMP said a total of 1,420 vehicles have been stolen in its jurisdiction since Oct. 1, adding that “many of these were idling vehicles with the keys accessible.”
Edmonton and Calgary auto thefts
The crime is also prevalent in Alberta’s two largest cities.
Edmonton police said between Oct. 30 and Nov. 8, they investigated 33 reports of stolen vehicles, where people had left the vehicle running in a driveway, on a street or in a commercial parking lot. EPS said 17 of those vehicles left running were stolen from southeast Edmonton.
“It’s the same thing every year when winter arrives — motorists try to warm up their vehicles only to return to find their expensive vehicles gone,” said Ron Smithman, EPS Southeast Division Watch Commander.
On Wednesday morning at around 7 a.m. in the Mill Woods area, the 23-year-old owner of a Ford F-150 went outside to turn on and warm up his truck, before going back in his home.
Police said within two minutes, a man and woman in a stolen Mazda 3 hatchback car spotted the unlocked pickup. One of them jumped into the truck and drove away. The theft can be seen in the video below.
WATCH BELOW: The Edmonton Police Service released this surveillance video of an idling vehicle being stolen Wednesday morning in Mill Woods
EPS spokesperson Scott Pattison said that evening, the stolen Mazda was also involved in another crime spree in north east Edmonton, which involved a hit-and-run and criminal flight from police.
“It’s not worth the stress that residents are going to put themselves through, not to mention the drain on police resources, when your stolen idling vehicle is used in a broader crime spree that impacts multiple victims,” Smithman said.
Police said both stolen vehicles remain outstanding:
- 2008 dark blue Ford F-150 truck with a black tonneau cover, Alberta licence plate # BLH7368
- 2015 grey Mazda 3 hatchback with sunroof, Alberta licence plate # BWS7365
“EPS is reminding motorists to not leave their vehicles running unattended or unlocked and with keys inside.”
Watch below: With winter approaching, many Edmonton drivers are tempted to leave their cars running unattended to warm them up. But police are warning about the risk of doing so. Vinesh Pratap has more.
Just last week, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) issued a similar warning. A CPS spokesperson told Global News police have seen a spike in auto thefts since the cold weather began. According to the CPS, an average of 15 vehicles are stolen in Calgary each day and in about a quarter of those cases, keys were left in the ignition.
The RCMP offered drivers a few tips to help prevent vehicle thefts and the sometimes dangerous situations that unfold after they’re stolen:
· Never leave a running vehicle unattended. If your keys must be in the ignition to warm it up, citizens should remain with their vehicle.
· Install a remote starter if possible, however, always make sure the vehicle is locked.
· Use a steering wheel lock to deter thieves.
· Never leave children unattended in a running vehicle.
· Never leave spare keys or garage door openers in or around your vehicle. If a garage door opener goes missing at any time, the garage door should be immediately recoded.
· If your keys are stolen, immediately change the locks for the keys that have gone missing, including residences and vehicles.
· Vehicles equipped with a keyless ignition can still be stolen if left running, even with the key fob removed from the vehicle.
· Always lock the man door leading from a garage into a residence.
“These are crimes of opportunity and if you take away that opportunity, you can prevent this from happening,” Peters said.
-With files from Jodi Hughes and Gary Bobrovitz
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.