Police in the city’s northwest corner say that they have seen an “alarming” increase in so-called “warm up thefts” this winter and they are urging residents to avoid leaving their vehicles running, even if it just for a few minutes.

Police in 23 Division say that there have been 25 warm up thefts that have occurred within their boundaries over the last three months, which is a notable increase from previous years.

They say that some of the thefts have occurred while a vehicle’s owner is inside their residence while others have taken place when the owner of a vehicle has left their car running while they run into a store.

“These happen very quick. You know you can turn your back and this can happen,” Const. Mark Zettler told CP24 on Tuesday afternoon. “The perpetrators work either in groups or alone and it seems like they do know that if you walk up and down the street there will be an unoccupied running vehicle.”

Warm-up thefts have long been common in the GTA but Zettler said that police are seeing an “increase” this year that has prompted them to step up proactive patrols.

But he said that drivers also need to be careful and never leave their vehicle unattended while it is running.

“It is a crime of opportunity,” he said.