‘It’s what bandits wait for’

Toronto police say the theft of idling cars during the winter is a growing problem.

Constable Gary Gomez from 42 Division of Toronto Police Services said that during bitter winter weather, before going to work people leave their cars idling in the driveway, or on the street, to warm up. Thieves simply hop in the cars and drive off.

“It’s what bandits wait for,” Gomez said. “People will wait outside of coffee shops, gas stations and when drivers run in to grab something, they come out and their cars are gone.”

The Toronto Star reported that on Jan.14 a man stole an idle Mazda 3 with a baby in the back seat outside a Newmarket daycare. Last February, a thief stole a minivan from an Oakville driveway. The van had a small child in the back seat.

Media relations manager at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, James Geuzebroek said that auto theft costs Canadian insurers about $540 million a year in claims.

“IBC has been active in encouraging people not to leave their cars idling to combat warm-up theft,” Geuzebroek said.

“This works out to an average of $37 per policy. In theory, without auto thefts, this could reduce (individual’s annual insurance payments) by $37.”

The IBC has teamed up with the OPP to distribute pamphlets and notices right on the windshields of cars, alerting drivers.

The “Lock it or lose it” campaign began late last year. The campaign encourages people to roll-up their windows, lock car doors, pocket the keys and never leave a vehicle running and walk away.

Toronto Police Services’ website statistics said that so far 69 auto thefts occurred in Toronto this year.

The Ontario Provincial Police website reports, “The stolen car industry is a $600 million a year illicit industry in Canada. In Ontario, over 52,000 cars are stolen a year.”

In 2005, thieves stole Honda Civics more than any other car. A representative from Honda Canada said that safety features on Hondas have not been updated to combat thefts.

However, all Hondas come with an immobilizer, a coded key unique to each car. If the car doesn’t recognize the key, the engine will not turn on.

AutotheftCanada.com cite car theft as Canada’s fastest growing industry.