Auto thefts surged in Winnipeg in December, with 166 vehicles stolen in the month.

The cold likely played a part in one-third of those thefts, police said, noting that 52 (31 per cent) of the vehicles were left running with the keys in the ignition.

"To get into that vehicle, it takes seconds. It literally takes seconds,” said Const. Jason Michalyshen. “To say that, 'I only stepped out for a few minutes,’ [well] you could be gone for 90 seconds, you come out and the vehicle was gone."​

Michalyshen said people should stay with their vehicles if they are warming them up with the keys in the ignition.

"Vehicles do need to warm up and I think most Winnipeggers would like to — appreciate getting into a warm car, but again, by leaving those vehicles running unattended, there's a risk associated to that," he said.

As for the other vehicles that were stolen:

  • 34 (20 per cent) of the vehicles had keys stolen from jackets, purses, or backpacks left unattended in public areas.
  • 15 (9 per cent) of the vehicles were stolen by using spare keys that were left in the vehicle (glove compartment, console).

The other 65 vehicles were taken under different circumstances, police said.

The police service is urging people to never leave their vehicles unattended, running or not, for any length of time while the keys are in the ignition, and to always ensure keys are secure and not hidden somewhere within the vehicle.