Calgary police have recovered dozens of vehicles and arrested 54 offenders following a three month investigation into auto thefts in the city.

The Auto Theft Team recovered 44 stolen vehicles over the last few months and officials say the vehicles are valued at over $1.1 million.

54 offenders were arrested and 53 of them are facing a total of 251 charges related to stolen vehicles, possession of stolen property, weapons offences, drug possession and failing to comply with release conditions.

Investigators say the offenders often use the stolen vehicles to commit other crimes.

“We see any combination of offenders stealing vehicles for the purpose of using that vehicle as a transaction piece and very often it’s the keys that are actually the transaction piece, more so than the vehicle itself,” said Staff Sergeant Graeme Smiley of the CPS District Support Unit. “Their keys, when left in the vehicle, can be trading hands a number of times by numerous criminals and those criminals could be responsible for some of what we’ve discussed here regarding things like break and enters, drug offences and other property offences.”

On Wednesday, police arrested one offender who they say was wanted on 62 warrants for previous offences and that the person is now facing an additional 13 charges.

“There’s actually numerous other arrests made by our patrol members as well in relation to stolen vehicles, it’s a daily occurrence for us. What our Auto Theft Team is doing is trying to target the most prolific offenders and try and have the greatest impact on the auto theft issues and we see that but when we arrest people that have more charges, as is evidenced by what we’re releasing today, there’s more opportunity for them to spent time in custody and for us to make a greater impact, Smiley added.

Police say offenders are out looking for easy vehicles to steal and that auto thefts increase with the colder weather.

“We see everything from an organized effort to a crime of opportunity and that crime of opportunity is one we’re trying to capitalize on today with the messaging around leaving your vehicle running and the crime of opportunity just occurs to that criminal because they see it running in the driveway or at the local convenience store or what have you,” said Smiley.

Tips to help prevent vehicle thefts:

  • Never leave a running vehicle unattended, if the keys are inside the vehicle or if the vehicle has been started with a keyless ignition or push-button start.
  • 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.
  • Never leave children or pets in a running vehicle.
  • Do not leave valuables, including identity documents and bank cards, in a vehicle.

Police say an average of 15 to 16 vehicles are stolen in the city every day.

People can report suspicious activity to police by calling 403-266-1234 or 911 for crimes in progress.

Police will provide an update on the case at 10:00 a.m. Watch the livestream HERE.