As temps drop, “Warm-Up” car thefts rise

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Warming up the car before hitting the road is routine for many shielding themselves from frigid winter temperatures. But even worse than getting behind the wheel in your cold car? Realizing your car is completely gone.

The New Haven Police Department is warning drivers everywhere about thieves specifically targeting cars left running and unattended to warm up or stay warm.

Year round, the most common car thefts happen at gas stations, while the driver is busy paying for gas or inside the store. With frigid temperatures this season, car thieves have their eyes peeled for empty, running cars.

Having your car stolen is not the only risk you face warming up your car. According to police, leaving a car unattended and running for more than three minutes is a violation of State of Connecticut Law.

Following these simple tips from the National Institutes of Health will help keep you from being left out in the cold:

  • Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you are away from it, even for “just a minute.”
  • Keep valuables out of sight or in the trunk. Purses, credit cards, and cell phones in plain view only help attract thieves.
  • Always roll up the windows and lock your car.
  • Never leave the vehicle title in your car. If stolen, it makes it easier for the thief to dispose of your vehicle. It can also make you a target for identity theft.
  • Be alert when approaching your car. Immediately leave the area to get help if you have any concerns for your safety.
  • Only park your car in busy, well-lit areas.
  • Install a mechanical locking device – commonly called a club, collar, or j-bar – that locks to the steering wheel, column, or brake.
  • If your vehicle has an alarm or other anti-theft device, USE IT.

New Haven police also want to remind that “keyless entry” systems have not only been around for a long time (they called it a crowbar back then) but tech savvy thieves know how to defeat the newer vehicles’ security.  Utilizing a small and inexpensive jammer, easily obtained online, thieves block electronic signals sent by key remotes to lock vehicles. Unsuspecting drivers then leave vehicles unattended assuming the doors are locked. With the vehicle completely vulnerable, thieves operate a secondary electronic device inside the car, a key-programming computer, to create a new key to start the vehicle.

Be alert. Shut it off. Lock it up.

The NHPD wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday season.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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