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Thieves Targeting Unattended Cars in Cold Weather

Cold weather and car thefts have led to increased interest in security-enhanced remote car starters. Four unattended vehicles left running have been stolen in St. Joseph so far in December.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) During this time of year, it's a daily ritual. We trudge out to our cars in the cold to start them and warm them up.

But if you run back inside leaving your vehicle unattended, you're leaving yourself open to being victimized.

"If you're a criminal that's in the business of stealing cars, it's very tempting, it's easy," said Capt. Mike Wilson of the St. Joseph Police Department.

The colder it is, the more often unattended car thefts happen. That's what has happened four times already in December.

"Especially this time of year, they're looking for vehicles running," Wilson said.

It's exactly what happened to Janie Johnson of St. Joseph around 8:30 p.m. Sunday night.

"I was getting ready to take my son to Nana and Papa's house to visit and I went outside and started the car up," she said. "I came back inside, grabbed him and went back out. Within a matter of seconds it was gone."

Johnson's 2006 Ford Escape was stolen right in front of her home on St. Joseph Avenue.

"I thought I was dreaming," she said. "I had to do an actual double-take."

Johnson says she is lucky her son wasn't in the car when it was stolen.

"I feel very violated," Johnson said. "It makes you wonder if someone was watching you. It's an eerie feeling."

Remote car starters are popular this time of year. Most have anti-theft technology, preventing unattended car thefts.

"Anytime the key is not in the ignition and it's remote started, once they press the brake pedal the vehicle automatically shuts off," Said Casey Lutz, manager at N.W. Audio.

But if you don't have a remote starter, police have a recommendation to keep you from getting your car stolen.

"If you're going to start your car, make sure you are within eyeshot of it, otherwise don't do it," said Capt. Wilson.

Wilson reminds us there is an ordinance on the books making it illegal to leave a running car unattended on any public roadway.

However, that law does not apply to private property.

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