PLAINVILLE, Conn. (WTNH) — Between 1998 and 2017, officials report Connecticut saw car thefts decline by 43%.

“We were dealing with broken ignitions and filed down keys, and you actually needed more of an insight in regards to how to steal cars,” said Lieutenant Paul Cicero, who was an auto theft detective from 2005 until 2010. “Those were the thieves we were seeing.”

Back then, he said, they were mostly adults.

“And now it’s juveniles engaged in reckless driving behavior and other criminal acts.”

Those criminal acts include shootings, evading motor vehicle accidents, street racing and people losing their lives because of people operating stolen cars.

According to Cicero, these juveniles are more opportunists than car thieves.

“You leave a loaded gun in your driveway, someone’s gonna grab it. Somebody’s gonna have a weapon. You leave a car in there with your keys in it, you have a juvenile who shouldn’t be operating a four or 5,000-pound car, and, they’ve been creating havoc.”

Hartford police said in one weekend in late August, 82 cars were reported stolen in Connecticut.

Why the uptick? Of those 82 cars stolen between Aug. 28 and Aug. 30, 62 of them had the key fob left inside.

“We’re seeing this increase because of careless owners,” Cicero said. “That’s what the big number is. Careless owners leaving their key fobs in their cars. It doesn’t take a seasoned car thief to open a door, push a button and drive away.”

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So, the solution seems to be a fairly simple one, right?

“We gotta do something about it. It comes down to the owners of the vehicle. You have to be a little more responsible. Everyone wants to point blame to the criminal that’s actually stealing the car. Sure, we can all understand that and agree with that. But, at the same [time], if you’re leaving that open door –open window so to speak — leaving an opportunity for your car to disappear.”

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“Just today, literally two hours ago our auto thefts unit, violent crimes unit boxed in two stolen cars in the Parkville neighborhood,” he continued. “A guy ran out of a car on foot, he had a gun on him and they arrested him.”

The bottom line. Even if your car is in the garage, take the key fob inside the house.

A simple test to see if your key fob is too close to your car? Cicero said go out and see if the car starts. If it does, maybe you need to leave the key fob a little farther away.