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Auto theft a crime of opportunity ─ protect your keys

Nearly 200 passenger vehicles and pickup trucks were stolen last winter ─ December to January ─ due to keys left either in the ignition or elsewhere in the passenger compartment, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

Manitoba’s public auto insurer, in partnership with CAA Manitoba, is raising awareness about this very preventable crime which can lead to a tragic outcome for innocent people.

“We see a definite trend that when the weather turns cold, people are more likely to leave their car running unattended with keys in the ignition,” said MaryAnn Kempe, Vice-President, Business Development, Communications & Chief Product Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance.

“For the three month period from December 2013 to February 2014, there were 269 thefts involving keys. Our analysis reported that 162 of these thefts ─ 60 per cent ─ involved keys left in the ignition, or somewhere within the vehicle.”

Since 2007, vehicles deemed to be ‘most-at-risk’ and registered in Winnipeg or used to commute into Winnipeg have had to be equipped with an approved immobilizer. Approved vehicle immobilizers are designed to prevent vehicles from being operated without vehicle keys and/or immobilizer key fobs. However these devices cannot protect vehicles from being stolen if the vehicle ignition is left running or the keys are not secured.

More than 98 percent of those ‘most-at-risk’ vehicles are now protected against theft through the installation of approved after-market immobilizers. Since 2007, all new vehicles manufactured for sale in Canada have required approved factory-installed immobilizers.

CAA Manitoba also wants to send the strong message that ignition keys should not be left in a vehicle for any reason. Excessive idling is not only costly in terms of fuel consumption, but also environmentally unfriendly.

“Even during extreme cold temperatures, a vehicle’s engine only needs a few minutes to warm up,” says Mike Mager, President and CEO of CAA Manitoba. “To reduce warm up time, plug in your vehicle when it’s colder than -18.”

Vehicles with keys in the ignition, or within the passenger compartment are quickly identified as prime targets by auto thieves.

“Auto theft is a crime of opportunity,” said Kempe. “By eliminating the opportunity, you eliminate the crime. An approved immobilizer is the most effective way of protecting a vehicle. The message is simple: protect your keys.”