MINNEAPOLIS - Residents of Minneapolis are being urged to keep their eyes open after a rash of auto thefts on the city's north side.

Police say 12 auto thefts were reported in the 4th Precinct between February 18 and February 24. Ten of the vehicles stolen were Hondas; of those ten, seven were Civics, two were Accords and two were CRVs. The model years were mostly 1995 to 1998.

The thefts took place in an aea from Lowry Avenue North to 53rd Avenue North, and from Bryant Avenue North to Queen Avenue North. None of these vehicles was stolen while running with the key in the ignition, even though at times this is a common winter trend. It appears that these Hondas were stolen using a "shaved key method". Most were stolen between 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Experts say certain makes and models of vehicles are especially vulnerable to being stolen with shaved keys, particularly older model Hondas. A shaved key is a car key which has been modified by a car thief to work in a variety of different ignition locks. It is a fairly common technique, especially among car thieves who specialize in older model Hondas. If you drive such a vehicle, your car is particularly vulnerable to auto theft.

To lessen your chances of becoming a victim of car theft, police say:

  • Call 911 to report suspicious activity. This includes vehicles circling the block with occupants you don't recognize, and strangers loitering or walking down your alley looking in garages or vehicles.
  • If you have a garage, use it. Don't park your vehicle on the street unless absolutely necessary.
  • Where possible, park your car in a well lighted area. Avoid dark, secluded areas.Never leave your car running or leave the keys in your car.
  • Always lock all doors and roll up the windows when you leave your vehicle.
  • Don't hide spare keys in your vehicle.Consider installing an aftermarket anti-theft device such as a steering wheel bar lock, (The Club), an engine disabler switch, etc. While such devices are not fool proof, they can be particularly helpful if your car is vulnerable to being stolen with a shaved key.
  • Always lock your garage's service doors and overhead doors.
  • Be alert to other people loitering nearby as you exit your vehicle.
  • Organize or become involved in your local block club.
  • Alert your neighbors and block club members to the problem and be sure to watch out for each other.

In the 4th Precinct concerned residents can call 673-5704 and ask to speak to the neighborhood's Crime Prevention Specialist for more information on auto theft prevention, block clubs, personal safety, or home security.