“Stay with your vehicle”

Calgary police and SAIT security warn against car theft

Winter hazards: Hannah Strueby brushes off the snow on her car at SAIT Parkade. With Operation Cold Start, students are taking safety measures by staying with their car when it’s warming up. (Photo by Faithfulness Oyekanmi/The Press)

Police are warning Calgarians against leaving their cars running unattended, no matter how tempting it may be in the freezing cold.

“Operation Cold Start was launched because we noticed that a lot of cars were being stolen during the winter as people were going out to warm their vehicles up and leaving their keys in the car,” said Sgt. Nick Wilsher, of the Calgary Police Service

The initiative, held in conjunction with the RCMP, informs people about the dangers of staying inside while their vehicles warm up.

Police are doing their best to end the rise of stolen vehicles which typically occurs during the cold season. The cold weather presents opportunities and easier access to people’s vehicles in Calgary.

Wilsher urges Calgarians to play it safe and resist the urge to start the car and leave the keys inside — even though the number of thefts is down so far this winter, with the unseasonably warm winter through November and December.

“It’s quite a significant issue in Calgary,” Wisher said “Last year, we saw 335 vehicles stolen between the beginning of November 2022 and the end of February 2023. But as of November 2023, through today, we’ve only seen 127 vehicles stolen cases.”

Truck drivers are at high risk of being targeted.

Wilsher said trucks are often connected to construction or other businesses. So, there are often tools or other valuables in vehicles that the thieves can sell quickly for money or drugs.

According to police statistics, the sharp increase in addiction is a major factor in car thefts. So is the soaring cost of living in Calgary.

Brush off: Student Hannah Strueby fights the cold as she cleans off her car on one of the coldest days of the week. (Photo by Faithfulness Oyekanmi/The Press)

Students are also at risk of leaving class and finding their vehicles gone.

“Our surface parking lots and garages are patrolled regularly and the risk of detection is high,” says SAIT spokesperson Chris Gerritsen. “Just like it is off-campus, most thefts from vehicles are crimes of opportunity and a break-in could likely have been avoided by locking the vehicle and not leaving items of value inside.”

Some SAIT students have figured out ways to lower the risk of having their vehicles stolen in the cold.

“It’s helpful if you have two fobs or keys if you’re able to lock your car while you’ve got it running,” said Marla Graham.

Garrison Nielsen, another SAIT student, suggests, “hiding valuables and sentimental valued items.”

During the cold season, police and SAIT security advise Calgarians to:

  • Use a remote starter or stay with your vehicle as it warms up.
  • Never leave your keys – neither your primary set nor a spare set – inside your vehicle.
  • Use a steering wheel lock.
  • Always keep your vehicle locked.
  • Close and lock your cars after exiting.
  • Avoid leaving your school gear, laptops and cameras in your car.

If you spot any suspicious activity, behaviour or object at SAIT, contact Campus Security at 403-284-8530 or through the SAITALERT app. In case of an emergency, call 911.

Warming up: Kamryn Cloet stays with her car covered in snow at SAIT parkade in Calgary. SAIT security and police warn students about the risks surrounding leaving their vehicles unattended. (Photo by Faithfulness Oyekanmi/The Press)
About Faithfulness Oyekanmi 5 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Faith Oyekanmi is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.