Old, new, black, or blue vehicles- it doesn't matter to thieves. They'll leave you stranded in the cold as they turn up the heat driving away in your car.
Since December 1st, the Columbia Police Department has taken seven reports of vehicles being stolen when left running to warm up. With today marking the first day of winter, Columbia citizens can expect colder temperatures to stick around. Sgt. Cyndi McLane with the Criminal Investigations Division reminds citizens to resist the urge to leave your vehicle unattended while it warms up.
"People think it won't happen to them,"Sgt. McLane says. "They think ‘my neighborhood is safe' or ‘I'll only be in there for a minute,' but it can happen anywhere at any time."
The latest report occurred yesterday in the 700 block of Mikel Street. Before that, six other reports ranging from the 5700 block of Freedom Drive to the 1000 block of Claudell Lane. Over the last five years, the Columbia Police Department has averaged approximately 14 reported vehicle thefts during the month of December.
"Vehicle thefts are crimes of opportunity," Sgt. McLane says. "If a criminal sees an easier, warmer way to get somewhere, they're going to take advantage of it."
Though the weather outside may be frightful, being stranded in the cold without your vehicle isn't delightful. Please stay with your vehicle while it warms up, and use these tips to ensure you're not the next victim of vehicle theft:
- Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you're away from it, even if for "just a minute."
- Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even if it's in front of your home.
- Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or out of sight.
- Remove portable electronic devices such as smart phones and GPS navigation systems from the vehicle.
- Park in well-lit, public areas.
- Carry the registration and insurance card with you. Don't leave personal identification documents or credit cards in your vehicle.