'Tis the season for a spike in thefts from vehicles, Winnipeg police warn

As the Christmas shopping season begins, thefts from vehicles begin to rise. Winnipeg police are warning people against leaving their purchases in plain view.

Police also urging people to not leave vehicles running to warm up

It's extremely simple to break a car window to steal things or jump in and drive away, say Winnipeg police. (RCMP)

As the Christmas shopping season begins, thefts from vehicles begin to rise, so Winnipeg police are warning people against encouraging "crimes of opportunity."

"[Shoppers are] going from store to store and location to location, leaving things in our vehicles in plain view. Put it in your trunk … or go someplace to drop it off, if at all possible," said Const. Tammy Skrabek.

In 2015, there were 482 thefts from vehicles during the month of November. That jumped to 614 in 2016.

In December 2015, the number was 282 while in December 2016 it was 431.

"That's a significant increase. That's why we feel the need this year to issue this advisory," Skrabek said.

Although Winnipeg is getting a break from the freeze at the moment, the snow and cold has arrived and that means many people are warming their cars before climbing in.

"Never leave your vehicle unattended, running or not, for any length of time while the keys are in the ignition," Skrabek said.

"We've already had reports of vehicles stolen because people left them running."

Some newer vehicles have built-in anti-theft features that shut the engine down but not before the car is driven for some distance, Skrabek said. For older vehicles, she advises drivers to use steering wheel locks.

"While it's a great idea that we all want to get into a nice, warm, comfy vehicle, any random thief out there sees that as an excellent opportunity to get themselves into a nice, safe warm, comfy vehicle very, very quickly," she said.

Last week, a person started their vehicle and went into their home to grab something. They were gone for a minute but the car was already gone when they got back, Skrabek said.

"It's extremely simple to break a window and jump into a car and drive away. In terms of a crime of opportunity, it's there."