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Theft of vehicles left to warm up or idle unattended on the rise in Edmonton: police

Theft of vehicles left idling on the rise in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: A vehicle left idling is stolen almost every day in Edmonton, according to city police issuing a warning about the risks of leaving your car to warm up unattended. Kendra Slugoski spoke to police and has more.

A vehicle left idling is stolen almost every day in Edmonton, according to city police issuing a warning as winter weather sets in for the season.

So far in 2019, police have received about 250 reports of stolen vehicles that were left idling outside of a home, business or workplace. That’s between five and six thefts a week.

Police say the numbers typically go up as the temperature goes down, although it’s increasingly becoming a trend throughout the year.

“Living in a winter city, we certainly understand,” EPS southeast division Const. David Castillo said. “The last thing anyone wants to do is enter a walk-in freezer when you sit in a frosty vehicle in the morning.”

READ MORE: Your car can be affected by the cold just as much as you can

Police said officers are seeing an increase in idling vehicles being left unlocked.

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“You’re serving up your vehicle on a platter for criminals,” Castillo said. “Whether you’re simply running into a convenience store for two minutes, or back into your house to quickly warm up, it only takes criminals seconds to make off with your vehicle.”

READ MORE: Police across Alberta see surge in idling vehicle thefts as temperatures drop

Police said some of the stolen vehicles are then used to commit other crimes. EPS communications adviser Scott Pattison said officers up in the Air 1 helicopter see it all the time.

“Almost nightly, they see stolen vehicles that are used to perpetrate other serious crimes, often harming other people.”

Pattison said vehicles fleeing from police are sometimes driven by people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“They’re not in their right minds, with respect to driving safely, and they cause an awful lot of damage and carnage,” Pattison said.

READ MORE: 8 idling, unlocked vehicles stolen in Red Deer in 1 week

“Some of these vehicles are being used in other break-and-enters and stuff like that. A lot of frauds — they’re using stolen vehicles so we can’t trace them,” Castillo explained.

The highest number of idling vehicles being stolen are being reported downtown and in the southeast, police said, noting areas increasingly hard hit in recent years include Central McDougall, McCauley, Boyle Street, Downtown, Queen Mary Park and King Edward Park – where Edmonton police held their media event Wednesday morning.

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Overall across Edmonton, 250 idling vehicles were stolen in 2016, 347 in 2017 and 395 vehicles in 2018.

Pattison said drivers have a responsibility to secure their vehicles.

“There has to be some accountability… A lot of tax dollars are spent, a lot of police resources are spent, and it’s an issue that continues to be prevalent in our city.”

READ MORE: Dozens of older Hondas, Acuras stolen in northeast Edmonton this summer

Edmonton police tips to prevent vehicle theft

Do not leave your vehicle running – Under no circumstances should you leave your vehicle unattended while running with the key in the ignition.

Install a remote car starter – Remote starters are designed to shut off if anyone attempts to drive the vehicle without a key. This will allow you to warm up your car without risk of theft.

Use a steering wheel locking device (e.g. The Club) – Police say a well-secured car will deter thieves. There are other devices available to consumers to stop thieves from easily stealing your vehicle.

No spare keys – Do not leave a spare key hidden in the vehicle. Thieves look for spare keys and once they break into your vehicle, they know all the hiding spots. You can get a spare key holder for your wallet or purse.

Treat your keys like cash – Don’t leave keys in places where they are easy to snatch, such as a gym locker, on your desk at work, visible in an open purse or unattended in a shopping cart. Thieves will grab and go, then head out to the parking lot and push the button on your key fob until they find your car.

Lock your vehicle – Always check that the doors, windows and sun roof are shut and locked when you park your vehicle. Leave your vehicle in a locked garage where possible. Lock your vehicle even when it is in the locked garage.

Do not leave items in your vehicle – Thieves can be attracted to your car because personal items are left in plain sight. Never leave anything in your vehicle, including loose change, cellphones, CDs, cameras, clothing, sunglasses, cigarettes, lighters and any other items.

Be aware of where you park – park in lots that have more than one of the following:

  • Security cameras
  • Security patrolling the parking lot
  • Someone working at an entrance/exit booth
  • A gated parking lot that needs a pass to get in and out
  • Well lit
  • A busy parking lot with lots of people coming and going or an area where there are lots of vehicles or pedestrians passing by