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‘Gone in seconds’: Edmonton police remind drivers to not leave vehicles running & unlocked

Click to play video: 'Edmonton police remind drivers to not leave vehicles running & unlocked'
Edmonton police remind drivers to not leave vehicles running & unlocked
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Police Service has kicked off its Operation Cold Start program, which aims to change people’s habit of leaving their idling vehicles unattended, unlocked and with keys inside. Dan Grummett reports – Dec 7, 2021

About three idling vehicles a week have been stolen in Edmonton this year, but as the temperature drops police expect that number to increase.

That’s when Edmonton police say more people start up their cars in the morning and go back inside, leaving it to warm up unattended.

“We do see an increase obviously in your winter months, January, February, March-ish a little bit,” said Const. Brett Earley with the EPS community engagement team.

“Usually between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. when everyone is having their morning coffee, waiting for their vehicle to warm up in order to be comfortable on their way to work.”

Read more: Reality Check: How long should you warm up your car?

The reminder comes as the Edmonton Police Service kick off its Operation Cold Start program, which aims to change people’s habit of leaving their idling vehicles unattended, unlocked and with keys inside.

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Police said officers will be conducting proactive patrols in neighbourhoods for unlocked vehicles left running. Officers are then approaching owners to let them know about the risk of theft, and the other crimes the vehicle may be involved in.

Edmonton Police Service Const. Brett Earley inspecting a vehicle to see if it’s been left idling and unlocked in the northeast neighbourhood of Brintnell on Tuesday, December 7, 2021. Global News

On Tuesday morning, Earley patrolled the northeast area of Brintnell, where he quickly found a vehicle left idling and unlocked.

“It’s an unfortunate reality we live in here in Edmonton and cities like ours — Calgary, Winnipeg — we get some really cold, cold winter months,” Earley said.

“During these early morning hours, people want to be comfortable on the way to work, so they’ll leave their vehicle idling and as soon as that starts, there could be a thief waiting around the corner and off goes your vehicle.”

Earley noted the theft isn’t just an inconvenience for the owner and their insurance company: “The thieves aren’t just stealing your vehicle for a joyride, they’re taking it to commit some violent crimes as well.”

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Read more: Charges laid after stolen truck ditched, taxi carjacked from Edmonton International Airport

Police said as uncomfortable as it is on a frosty morning, the best advice is to not leave vehicle idling with the keys in it.

“Unfortunately, go to work in that cold vehicle or invest in a command start where you don’t need the key inside the ignition and you can have your doors locked at the same time.”

Even if you can turn your vehicle on with one key and lock it with another key, police say thieves will find a way to take it and you may never see your vehicle again.

Since January 2019, nearly 750 vehicles have been reported stolen to Edmonton police: 283 in 2019, 297 in 2020, and as of the end of November, 169 in 2021.

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

So far this year, the highest number of idling vehicles being stolen are being reported in the city’s northeast and southeast. (See EPS graph below).

Idling Theft Total Occurrences, Edmonton Police Services
Division201920202021*Grand Total
DOWN423628106
NEAST565641153
NWEST654521131
SEAST435936138
SWEST454718110
WEST325425111
Grand Total283297169749
*YTD to 2021 November 30
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Police said vehicles aren’t just being stolen from in front of homes — they’re also being taken when people run inside a store, thinking they’ll only be a minute.

“During this Christmas shopping season, we’re seeing a lot of people park their vehicle, leave it unlocked — obviously idling — so they can run into their grocery store in order to grab a package, run into UPS — in and out they think they’ll be, and while they’re in, their vehicle gets stolen.”

Read more: Why you shouldn’t idle your car, even if it’s frigid outside

Earley said no specific make or model appears to be targeted more than others these days — criminals are looking for any opportunity.

“You can start your vehicle, walk back into your house and you turn around as you’re closing the door and your vehicle can be gone in a matter of seconds.”

Click to play video: 'Theft of vehicles left idling on the rise in Edmonton'
Theft of vehicles left idling on the rise in Edmonton

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 sunroof 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
Click to play video: 'How preventing auto theft stops other crimes from happening: RCMP'
How preventing auto theft stops other crimes from happening: RCMP

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