With the return of cold temperatures, it's not uncommon to see vehicles left running and unattended in town. 

While it may be tempting to start your vehicle and warm it up well before you hit the road, the Cochrane RCMP is reminding motorists not to leave their idling vehicles unoccupied, and say it's an easy target for theft.

Corporal Troy Savinkoff says that vehicle theft continues to be a big problem in Cochrane and the surrounding areas.

"Every year it's the same thing," says Savinkoff. "We're going to see a rise in theft of motor vehicles. We do every year."

The RCMP continues to make proactive efforts to help reduce vehicle theft in Cochrane. They increase foot patrol in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods and often leave behind brochures in unlocked cars as a reminder. Savinkoff says that some initiatives are in place to catch criminals in the act.

"We do run some very effective programs within this town including a bait vehicle program," says Savinkoff. "Some vehicles left running may belong to the RCMP, where we are hoping to catch somebody in the act of stealing cars that are left running."

 While the bait vehicle program has proven to work in the past, Savinkoff says that it is less effective when that vehicle is one of many cars left idling in the same area.

"It makes it pretty difficult to do that kind of program when your bait vehicle is one of perhaps 12 running at one time in the downtown core," says Savinkoff.

Whether parking outside of your home or in a commercial area, drivers should always use caution, as it only takes a few seconds for someone to get into a vehicle and drive away.

The Alberta RCMP estimates that about 33% of all vehicle thefts happen when a vehicle is idling and unoccupied.

They strongly recommend that motorists limit the amount of time that cars are left running. They say that vehicles should be secured at all times and whenever possible to utilize automatic car starters.

The RCMP is also reminding the public not to leave spare keys or garage door openers in or around your vehicle, never leave children or pets in an idling car and to be sure to remove all valuables.

Savinkoff urges anyone who sees any suspicious behaviour to contact the RCMP immediately.