Calgary police aim to reduce warm-up vehicle theft through Operation Cold Start

·2 min read

Police will be on the lookout to prevent vehicle warm-up thefts around Calgary for the next two weeks through the continuation of its crime prevention initiative, Operation Cold Start.

Vehicles left running and unattended are targeted by car thieves in crimes of opportunity, police said in a press release Monday.

Since November, there have been 217 vehicles that were stolen while left running and unattended in Calgary.

Operation Cold Start, which began in December 2016, seeks to deter or catch thieves through an increased police presence in neighbourhoods.

The officers monitor vehicles considered easy targets and watch for known offenders or suspicious persons, the release said.

Calgary Police Service
Calgary Police Service

"We know there are offenders out there who work together to commit these thefts," said Sgt. Pete Barker of the Calgary Police Service's District 8 community resource team.

"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."

Prevention tips from police

From November 2018 to April 2019, a total of 494 vehicles were stolen while left running.

Though fewer vehicles were stolen in warm-up thefts in 2020, the year also had warmer weather and more Calgarians staying home, police said.

"Any amount of preventable crimes is too many," said Barker.

"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."

Calgarians warming up their cars are reminded by police to never leave a running vehicle unattended if the keys are inside, to use a remote car-starter whenever possible, and to use a steering wheel lock to discourage thieves.

Never leave children, pets or valuables in a running vehicle unattended, police said, and don't keep spare keys or garage door openers in or around the car.

Suspicious activity, such as unknown vehicles driving through streets repeatedly or individuals who appear to be checking vehicles, can be reported to police by calling 403-266-1234, or 911 for crimes in progress.