Auto theft task force lays more than 250 charges against alleged thieves

Member of the police auto theft team have been busy taking stolen cars off Calgary streets, nabbing 54 alleged thieves and laying hundreds of charges in the last three months alone.

But Staff Sgt. Graeme Smiley with the Calgary Police Service said a large number of the 251 charges laid in recent busts aren’t even stolen vehicle offences.

Smiley said stolen cars are often used to commit other crimes, adding there is a “food chain” of bad guy and gals using car keys as a “transactional piece.”

“At the time of arrest, these [54] offenders were wanted on a total of 211 warrants on unrelated crimes,” Smiley said at a press conference on Thursday. He said those “unrelated crimes” include drug offences, violent crimes and break-and-enters, to name a few.

Forty-four cars with a total value of more than $1 million were seized by auto theft team members in last three months, Smiley said.

“It’s important to mention … those 54 arrests are from our auto theft team, there’s actually numerous other arrests made by our patrol members as well in relation to stolen vehicles,” Smiley said, adding around 15 cars are stolen everyday in Calgary.

Smiley task force officers located and arrested an auto theft offender on Wednesday who was wanted on 62 outstanding criminal warrants for previous offences.

The offender was charged with another 13 offences after the arrest, but Smiley said that offender wasn’t even the most prolific of the one recently arrested by team members.

Calgary Police take a man into custody in the southeast in allegedly in connection to a stolen vehicle in Calgary Alta on Saturday April 22, 2017. Jim Wells/Postmedia

“We see everything from an organized effort to a crime of opportunity, and that crime of opportunity is what we’re trying o capitalize on today with the messaging around leaving your vehicle running,” Smiley said.

Police will be kicking off another round of Operation Cold Start in coming weeks.

The annual campaign urges Calgarians not to leave their cars running in the winter months to avoid becoming an easy target for would-be thieves.

Police are reminding citizens planning to warm up their vehicle on a cold day to:

  • Never leave a running vehicle, where the keys are in the ignition, unattended.
  • Never leave running vehicles, where the vehicle has been started with a keyless ignition or push-button start, unattended.
  • Use a remote starter whenever possible and keep your vehicle locked.
  • Use a steering wheel lock to deter thieves.
  • Never leave spare keys or garage door openers in or around your vehicle. Always lock the person door leading from a garage into a residence.
  • Never leave children or pets in a running vehicle.
  • Do not leave valuables, including identity documents and bank cards, in a vehicle, under any circumstances.
  • If you witness a crime, such as a vehicle being stolen, call 9-1-1 and provide as much descriptive information as you can. Never approach a suspect or pursue a stolen vehicle.

RRumbolt@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @RCRumbolt

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