Every year, about this time, auto theft takes a jump. One of the main reasons has to do with the weather.
Drivers practically invite thieves to take their cars and trucks when they start them along the curb and run back inside to the warmth of the homes.
But it only takes a few minutes for a thief to hop into your running vehicle and drive away.
Jason Lee lives in North Minneapolis where a KARE 11 crew spotted his van running for a half hour. "Thieves haven't been bothering me," says Lee. Whether he's bothered by thieves or not, what he did violates city ordinances prohibiting open ignitions with keys in them on city streets.
A survey of several neighborhoods shows widespread flaunting of the city ordinance. But it’s something police take seriously and they will ticket violators.
“Thieves don't even need special tools, I mean you're giving them your car with keys in it and a car running, all they have to do is get in it and drive away," says Police Inspector Val Wurster.
And to those who claim they return to their houses but don't take their eyes off their vehicles Wurster says, "their vehicle is going to get stolen anyway." adding "you're going to watch it drive right down the street if you leave your vehicle running."
Tuesday night in Northeast Minneapolis a realtor, locking up a house, had her running vehicle stolen with her two young sons were in the back seats. The thief, apparently not aware of that when he jumped in, ditched the vehicle not far away.
The children were unhurt and the thief fled. But police say that's a classic case of how a thief can make off with a running vehicle in seconds. And if you think locking the vehicle while it runs is any better, you're mistaken according to police. They say thieves can quickly break a window and take off in your running vehicle, which was left unattended and that’s still a violation of the city ordinance.
New Yorker Jose Rosado was waiting with his grand daughter at a Minneapolis bus stop and was surprised by how many vehicles were running with no drivers inside. “That would be gone in about a second in New York," said Rosado.
Police say motorists should know just how expensive leaving their keys in their car can be. First, you will likely be ticketed for open ignition and if the care is stolen, it may be involved in an accident, or possibly stripped of its parts and never returned. All these things add up to drive up insurance rates.
There is one exception to the rule of vehicles left running unattended and it involves automatic starters. Police says it is permissible for cars with those devices because if someone jumps in and tries to move it without the key, the vehicle is disabled and shuts down.
By Bernie Grace , KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2005 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)