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South Bend Police see increase in thefts as cars left to idle in the cold

WSBT 22

It’s a threat that takes just minutes to make you a victim.

Area police say they're seeing cars stolen while being warmed up.

There have been seven cars stolen in South Bend this month alone, but police say anyone is at risk.

The danger is when you get out of your car and leave it unattended. It's hard to tell if anyone approaching is a stranger and police say it gives thieves the few minutes they need to get away.

Minutes after revving the engine, South Bend Police say drivers are seeing people drive off with the car they've left running.

"A lot of times you hear people say, I was only inside for a couple of minutes. It only takes that thief a couple of seconds to hop in your vehicle and drive away,” said SBPD Spokesperson, Ken Garcia.

Leaving a cold car idling can be a hot time for thieves to strike.

It's happened to five cars this month alone in the La Salle Park area. Last winter, 30 idling cars were illegally taken.

“In fact, one of the reports, the victim said they were only inside their house for about five minutes. And the vehicle was gone,” Garcia said.

Five cars have been recovered this year. Some found around the corner, others as far away as Mishawaka.

Garcia says a car left alone can leave you open to other theft.

"Someone went out to start their vehicle and somebody came in, popped the trunk and took the items that were inside the trunk, but didn't actually steal the car,” Garcia said.

Driver Michael Hall says he's often warmed up the car he's filling up while he waits inside.

"I have no idea whether it's actually or not. But I feel like it warms up the engine and makes it run better,” Hall said.

Garcia says drivers should invest in a remote starter, so while your car is left alone your steering and transmission remain locked and your car stays where you left it.

"It may be uncomfortable and you may be cold but stay with your vehicle. It's less likely to become a target,” Garcia said.

The U.S. Department of Energy actually says most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds.

The engine will warm up faster being driven. This can also decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions.

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