With the cold winter temperatures, the Alberta RCMP and their partners in law enforcement are reminding everyone to ensure their vehicle is never unattended or unlocked with keys nearby or in the ignition. Approximately 25 per cent of stolen vehicles in Alberta are stolen while idling and these thefts are far more prevalent in the cold winter months. Vehicles can be stolen in seconds by thieves lying in wait. Oftentimes, thieves will look for people who start their vehicles and then leave them unattended as they return in their houses or into a store.

To help keep your property safe, Alberta police services are taking action through Operation Cold Start from January 31 to February 6.

"Alberta has the highest per capita auto theft rate in the country, and approximately 25% of those vehicles are stolen while idling with the keys left in the vehicle,” said RCMP Superintendent Mike McCauley of the Community Safety and Wellbeing Branch. “This drives up insurance rates for Albertans and these files take a great deal of time to investigate. This project will prevent some of these crimes during the project, and ideally, thanks to the educational component of the project, will change Albertan's habits. It is a small investment tackling one of the root causes of this crime."

The goal of Operation Cold Start is to educate Albertans and work with the public to reduce auto theft, ultimately by making it tougher on would be thieves. The initiative will see police officers across the province patrolling for unattended idling vehicles to determine if they are locked and/or have the keys in the ignition. Officers will work to educate owners on the various ways they may keep their property safe. But, we can’t do it alone and it is critical that the public help in preventing these crimes of opportunity.

Here are some tips to help keep your vehicle safe:

-If possible, look into command start options as a means to warm your vehicle.

-Steering wheel locking devices are effective options that can help mitigate theft.

-When starting your car, or allowing the engine to warm up prior to driving, ensure that you are in the vehicle.

-Never leave valuable items like purses, wallets, keys or change in an unoccupied vehicle.

-Always place keys to vehicles in a safe place, out of plain sight and in a secure location.

-Lock vehicle doors all the time, even if you are parked in your driveway or garage at home.

-Never leave your vehicle unattended if it is running or the keys are in it.

According to the RCMP, individual police agencies and RCMP detachments have implemented this initiative to prevent thefts of idling automobiles in past years, but in 2022 we will be coordinating this operation across the province for the first time.