Idling, unlocked vehicles a magnet for thieves: RCMP

With the intense cold snap settling down over Alberta, it’s understandable that many local residents are leaving their vehicle running...

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With the intense cold snap settling down over Alberta, it’s understandable that many local residents are leaving their vehicle running to keep them toasty warm. However, an unlocked, idling vehicle can be an invitation to the wrong people, even in farm yards or small towns.

Sgt. Corey Kyle, commander of the Thorsby/Breton RCMP detachment, said he and his RCMP members have seen the same issue in the rural area.

“It’s a crime of opportunity,” said Kyle by phone Dec. 8. “These people aren’t breaking windows to get in.

“Leaving cars idling, even on a cold day, is a dangerous habit.”

Kyle said suspects may be working alone or in a group, going door to door and trying handles to see if a vehicle is unlocked. If it’s idling, that’s even better for the thief.

The issue is cropping up in both urban and rural areas, exacerbated by the frigid weather.

According to a press release from RCMP K Division, since December 1, Red Deer RCMP have received reports of approximately 16 stolen vehicles, eight of which had been left idling, unlocked and unattended; in several cases, vehicle owners were so close by that they saw their vehicles being driven away by quick-moving thieves.

“Especially on cold weather mornings, thieves are cruising residential neighbourhoods and the parking lots of high-traffic businesses, looking for vehicles that have been left running,” says Corporal Karyn Kay of Red Deer RCMP. “If you leave your vehicle unlocked and running, your chances of victimization are high – it takes mere seconds for an opportunistic thief to climb in and drive away.”

In such cold weather, police understand that it’s necessary to warm up vehicles, but RCMP urge drivers to use a spare key to lock your vehicle if you choose not to remain in it while it’s warming up, and to explore options such as remote vehicle starters, steering wheel club locks and alarm system stickers that will make you a less attractive target for thieves.