Calgary police warn against leaving cars running unattended during cold snap

Click to play video: 'Calgary police reminding people about vehicle theft as temperatures drop'
Calgary police reminding people about vehicle theft as temperatures drop
WATCH: The recent cold weather has led to a warning from Calgary police about leaving your vehicle running while unattended. Elissa Carpenter reports. – Nov 30, 2022

The cold weather has brought back a familiar behaviour, according to the Calgary Police Service.

“A lot of times it’s people who will run out to the car with their keys, unlock it, start up and then run back in,” Staff Sgt. Nick Wilsher told Global News. “We always see a spike (in car theft) during the cold weather.”

On Wednesday alone, CPS officers responded to 13 separate incidents of stolen cars, with four confirmed to have been vehicles left running and unattended.

“You’re leaving a gift for anybody, because it is a crime of opportunity,” Wilsher said. “They’ll just come along and they’ve got the keys to the car, and they will just go until it’s empty.”

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He warned against car owners trying to convince themselves of reasons to leave their car running unattended.

“We always think, ‘Oh, not in my neighbourhood, not where I am. You know, I’m only a few seconds away,’” Wilsher said.

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“It can be gone in a matter of seconds. That’s what you’ve got to remember.”

Data shared with the Calgary Police Commission on Wednesday showed car thefts in the city in 2022 to the end of October were on par with five-year averages. The month of October, which was warmer than normal, saw 10 per cent fewer car thefts than the five-year average.

Click to play video: 'What (if anything) can car owners do to prevent catalytic converter thefts?'
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Operation Cold Start is an annual awareness campaign CPS started in 2016. In January, it launched provincewide.

From the start of November 2021 to the end of January 2022, 284 cars were stolen while left running unattended.

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Wilsher said stolen vehicles often go on to be used in other crimes.

“A lot of times we do recover these vehicles, but they usually also get involved in other crimes as well,” the CPS staff sergeant said. “So when people get their car back, it’s usually with other things that they didn’t want in their vehicle.”

And searching for stolen vehicles can put officers or bystanders in danger.

“We don’t have any control over that vehicle,” Wilsher said.

“The person driving it might suddenly accelerate. And then — certainly in this weather — the vehicle could just give way under the conditions, slide and crash, and injure other people.”

Wilsher said it takes only a couple of minutes for modern vehicles to warm up before they can be driven, reason enough to stay with the car or truck.

“What we say is just bundle up, get in there, start it up and make sure your vehicle is ready to drive on the road by clearing those windows.”

–with files from Elissa Carpenter, Global News


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