Police from across the province are banding together to urge Alberta motorists to not leave their vehicles idling with the keys inside.
RCMP, along with their partner agencies, advise you instead to keep your keys or key fob with you when leaving your vehicle running.
RCMP say auto thieves are always roaming neighbourhoods and rural areas looking for an opportunity, often taking less than a minute to get in and drive away.
Cpl. Curtis Peters of Strategic Communications says trucks are predominantly the vehicle of choice, but other vehicles such as quads, tractors and snowmobiles are often targeted as well.
“We have a recent example of a situation where a tractor was stolen and used to ram and disable a police vehicle," he says. "These situations are potentially deadly.”
Mounties say the mindset of a driver of a stolen vehicle is not always rational and there is no expectation they will take care of it once they steal it -- situations that can have a significant impact on public safety or that of the RCMP.
In the past week alone, RCMP point to an incident in Barrhead October 28 where officer safety was severely put at risk. Mounties responded to a suspicious person complaint, which escalated into the suspect stealing a tractor that had keys in it and used it to ram a police vehicle.
Then in Red Deer on November 8, a 21-year-old man is alleged to have stolen an idling truck and used it to ram a police cruiser when officers approached. Fortunately, no one was injured in either incident.
According to RCMP, there have been 1,420 vehicles stolen in their Alberta jurisdictions since October 1, with many being idling vehicles with the keys inside.
Mounties offer several tips to help prevent you from being a victim of auto theft, including never leaving a running vehicle unattended and if the keys need to be inside the vehicle while running, stay with it. Installing a remote starter, using a steering wheel lock and never leaving children unattended in a vehicle are other safety measures urged by RCMP.
In addition, Mounties say drivers should not leave spare keys or garage door openers in plain view in your vehicle and if some keys are stolen, immediately change the locks that go with them. Police also point out that vehicles with keyless ignitions can still be stolen if left running, even if the key fob has been removed. Finally, always lock a door leading from a garage to inside a residence.
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