Thieves were on the prowl in Red Deer and stole a staggering 33 vehicles in the last seven days as of Monday.
Red Deer RCMP Staff Sgt. Jon England said 20 of those vehicles were left idling during the recent extreme cold when vehicles were idling longer and throughout the day.
He said the thefts are difficult for police to prevent.
“These people drive around looking for vehicles that are running so we can’t pinpoint one community, we can’t pinpoint one time,” England said.
“They drive around in their own personal vehicles or other stolen vehicles. Once they find something that’s idling, they’ll sneak out quick, try the door handle. If the door handle opens the door, they’ll jump in quick to see if it will drive away.”
He said some of the 33 vehicles would have been already recovered. But often they are used during the commission of another crime such as dangerous driving. During a traffic stop, the vehicles are used to try to flee from police.
To prevent vehicle theft, RCMP recommend:
• Never leave keys in an unlocked, unoccupied vehicle.
• Avoid idling an unoccupied vehicle.
• Use a steering wheel lock to deter thieves.
• Never leave spare keys or garage door openers in or around a vehicle.
• Never leave children or pets in an idling vehicle.
• Never leave valuables inside a vehicle.
• Install an anti-theft system in a vehicle if it doesn’t have one. Thieves are reluctant to steal vehicles if they can be recovered quickly.
England said some vehicles have a disabling function that prevents them from being stolen if a remote starter is used to idle a vehicle. But if owners use the push start button inside newer vehicles, a thief may still be able to drive away.
“Once it is turned off it won’t start again, but it will remain running as long as the person keeps it running.”
The public is reminded to report suspicious activity to Red Deer RCMP by calling the non-emergency complaint line at 403-343-5575. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or online at www.P3Tips.com.