String of 'warm up' car thefts prompts warning from police

York police are warning the public not to leave their vehicles idling unattended, even for a few minutes, in the driveway this winter. Thieves are targeting vehicles in a string of "warm up" thefts.

Organized crime groups scouting locations, stealing idling cars from driveways

"Don't let your warm car become a hot car."

That was the name of a release distributed by York Regional Police today after a rash of "warm-up" vehicle thefts in the GTA. 

The ploy is simple: you go out to start your car in the morning to warm it up, then run back inside to grab your coat, or your travel mug, for example. That's when thieves strike. They get away with your car and most likely your key chain, too.

There has been three such thefts reported in York region in the past week, and there are between 30 and 40 reported to police in the area each year, according to Det.-Sgt. Paul LaSalle.

The issue was thrust into the spotlight yesterday, when a car with a 9-month-old baby inside was stolen at a Mississauga gas station as the boy's mother paid for gas inside. 

"We're coming to that time of season when people are starting to warm up their cars more frequently. This is the time that organized groups are out there in the morning, they are scouting these areas and they are doing their homework before hand — seeing what people's routines are."

LaSalle says most often the stolen vehicles are "put right into a container and shipped overseas" as part of complex international networks of automobile thieves. By stealing cars when the keys already in them, it saves the thieves the trouble and money of having to have a new set made. 

York police are asking the public to be vigilant, to consider changing up their morning routines from time to time and to stop leaving vehicles unattended while running — even if it's in your own driveway.
Police Det.-Sgt. Paul LaSalle said there were 38 'warm up' vehicle thefts in the Peel region last year. (CBC)

“If you need to have a warm car, our recommendation would be to have a proper remote starter on the vehicle so you can remotely start it with the doors still locked. That’s going to make it more difficult for thieves to take," said Const. Andy Pattenden. 


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