'This is going to be a 5-year high': Police across Alberta sound alarm over massive jump in vehicle thefts

'This is going to be a 5-year high': Police across Alberta sound alarm over massive jump in vehicle thefts

Don't leave your car idling, regardless of the weather. That's the message from police and RCMP across the province as the number of thefts spike.

"This is going to be a five-year high for stolen vehicles in province," Cpl. Curtis Peters told CBC News on Friday.

He said there have been about 10,300 stolen vehicle in the province this year to-date, outside of the major centres with their own police forces.

That's about the same number as all of 2016.

Peters, based in Airdrie, is with the southern Alberta RCMP and says a good chunk of those thefts, in areas serviced by the RCMP, involve cars and trucks left running and unlocked.

"About one in four vehicles stolen lately were left idling or had the keys available, so that tells me that probably 25 per cent of these thefts are entirely preventable."

Calgary's monthly numbers are showing the same trend.

"Through the month of October, we had 13 such incidents," said acting Staff Sgt. Darwin Pearce regarding idling vehicle thefts.

"Already here in the month of November we are up to 46, including four this morning."

And that November statistic covers only the first 11 days of the month.

"A lot of them are left unattended, and it takes a very short period of time, under 30 seconds, for somebody to walk up to a vehicle that is left unlocked and running and drive away in it," Pearce said.

"Just don't leave your vehicle running unattended. It's that simple."

Edmonton police are dealing with a similar trend. There were 33 idling vehicles stolen in the city in the first nine days of November, which represents a quarter of all vehicle thefts.

Staff Sgt. Ron Smithman told Edmonton AM on Friday that organized crime is part of the problem and car owners should consider preventative options like a steering wheel club, remote starters that allow you to leave the doors locked and even GPS tracking technology.

Meanwhile, Peters says there have been 1,420 thefts in RCMP-serviced communities across the province since the start of October and sometimes the stolen vehicles are used in crimes after the theft.

A 21-year-old man allegedly stole an idling truck in Red Deer and rammed a police vehicle with that truck when confronted by officers.

There was lots of damage to the police vehicle, but there were no injuries in that incident.

"We see stolen vehicles that are used in home invasions, robberies, gas-and-dashes, and used to steal other vehicles," Peters added.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada tells CBC News there were approximately 23,000 vehicles, of all types, stolen in Alberta in 2016.

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