Winnipeg is known as the car-theft capital of Canada— something Winnipeg policelearned the hard way Monday, when one of their own cars was swiped.

Shortly after 5 a.m. Monday, a white unmarked Crown Victoria police-training vehicle was stolen from a neighbourhood in River Heights.

An officer had taken the administrative police car home because there was no secure place to park it at the training academy.

Police spokeswoman Const. Jacqueline Chaput would not say how theydiscovered the car was missing.

About 45 minutes after the car was stolen,it was spotted by police in the city's North End. Officers chased the vehicle andtried wrangling the suspect witha spike belt that punctures the offender's tires.

But the driver, who Chaput described as an adult male, was able to avoid the spike belt. After that, police lost track of the car.

Later Monday, Chaput confirmed that the car was found in the early afternoon on Laura Street between Logan and Alexander.

No weapons inside stolen car

"This is the first time we've had a police car stolen," Chaput said. "Well, we've had people go into vehicles, I guess, if they've slid through the openings and things like that. But to have one stolen from an officer's residence, absolutely the first time."

Chaput said she wasn't entirely sure what kind of equipment is in the vehicle, but did confirm there were no weapons.

"It does have emergency equipment in it," she said. "It's like the traffic unit: they're unmarked but they have the lights in the back."

Police vehicles are not equipped with immobilizers, even though Manitoba Public Insurance urges all vehicle owners to install them. And that's something Chaput said the service is going to re-evaluate.

Manitoba Public Insurance estimates that a car is stolenevery hour, on average,in the province.As of 2005, Manitoba holds the dubious distinction of having the highest auto-theft rate in the country,according to Statistics Canada.

In Winnipeg, 1,712 motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 population were reported last year, whereasin Toronto there were 306 thefts reported per 100,000 population.