A long-awaited milestone in Winnipeg was reached this month when, for the first time in decades, there wasn't a single auto theft during a 24-hour period.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, that day was March 3.

Nobody's talking about making it a civic holiday but it is being hailed as a major achievement.

MPI president Marilyn McLaren called it a sign that Winnipeg is shedding its long-held title as the car-theft capital of Canada.

'This zero-theft day is sure to be the first of many.' —Marilyn McLaren, MPI 

The statistics bolster her claim, suggesting that auto-theft rates in Winnipeg have dropped 62 per cent in the last two years.

Last year, auto theft claims dropped to a 17-year low with 3,173 vehicles stolen or attempted to be stolen. That number peaked at 16,986  in 2006.

McLaren credits the decline to anti-theft measures such as the province's immobilizer program and the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy (WATSS).

Under the WATSS program — a partnership launched in 2005 involving police, Manitoba Justice and MPI — justice officials contact the highest-risk auto thieves every three hours with at least one in-person visit every day.

In March 2007, $500,000 in new funding was announced for the city of Winnipeg to add five police officers to the stolen auto unit, allowing it to operate seven days a week.

In September 2007, the immobilizer program was expanded, making Manitoba the first province in Canada to require the use of electronic immobilizers in vehicles deemed to be at high risk of theft, based on most popular models stolen.

Without an immobilizer, vehicle owners are denied registration of their vehicle.

Now, federal regulations require immobilizers to be installed in all new cars, vans, light trucks and sport utility vehicles for sale in Canada and built after Sept. 1, 2007.

"This zero-theft day is sure to be the first of many," McLaren said Thursday.