Calgary police launch Operation Cold Start 2021 to warn drivers of warm-up thefts

Calgary police are warning people to stop leaving vehicles unattended while they warm up in cold winter months. Getty Images

Calgary police will once again be taking to the streets in an effort to stop the spike in stolen vehicles typically seen in winter months.

Operation Cold Start, first launched in 2016, sees officers patrol communities looking for vehicles left running and unattended. When officers find these easy targets, they approach the driver to warn them about the danger of what they’re doing.

Read more: The top 10 most stolen vehicles in Alberta in 2020

In a Monday news release, the Calgary Police Service said despite warmer weather and many residents staying home this year due to COVID-19, they have had 217 vehicles stolen while left running and unattended between the beginning of November and now.

“While there have been fewer warm-up thefts than last year, any amount of preventable crimes is too many,” Sgt. Pete Barker said.

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“The offenders stealing these vehicles often have little regard for the safety of Calgarians, engage in high-risk and dangerous driving behaviour and use stolen vehicles to commit other crimes that victimize our community.

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Barker explained warm-up thefts are crimes of opportunity that are preventable, contribute to the high rates of auto theft and create significant risks to public safety.

“We know there are offenders out there who work together to commit these thefts,” Barker said. “We have seen instances where multiple offenders travel around the city together looking for these unattended vehicles in neighbourhoods or even outside of convenience stores and coffee shops.

“When they find an easy-to-steal vehicle, it takes them less than 30 seconds to commit the theft and continue on, looking for another vehicle to target.”

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Read more: Calgary family speaks out after rare vehicle with sentimental value is stolen

Calgary police have the following safety tips to keep your vehicle secure, not only in the winter but the warmer months as well:

  • Never leave a running vehicle unattended, if the keys are inside the vehicle or if the vehicle has been started with a keyless ignition or push-button start.
  • Use a remote starter whenever possible and keep your vehicle locked.
  • Use a steering wheel lock to deter thieves.
  • Never leave spare keys or garage door openers in or around your vehicle.
  • Never leave children or pets in a running vehicle.
  • Do not leave valuables, including identity documents and bank cards, in a vehicle.

Police are asking anyone who sees suspicious activity in their neighbourhood to call the non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or 911 if there is a crime in progress.

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