Police Warn: Don't Warm Up Your Car This Winter

My car was stolen today.

Like most American suburban middle-class moms, I went out front to start the car on a chilly morning. I wanted our beat-up SUV to warm up for my toddler son. Taking a look around our quiet street for neighbors, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Back inside, I took two whole minutes to put us in jackets. Then an engine revved. My engine revved. And I knew someone was in my car.

Running to the front screen door I watched as my car ripped out of my driveway and down my street. “Oh my God!” I screamed. “Oh my God!” And I slammed the door shut, locked it and called the cops.

How many times had I started my car on a cold morning and walked back inside while it warmed up? Or pre-loaded my car with my bags before running back inside to get my son and lock up? What if, God forbid, I’d put my son in the car and realized I’d forgotten something inside the house? What would have happened if I’d walked out just as they walked up to the car? Sure, my presence might have scared them off. Or, they could’ve acted on a perceived threat. What then?

“This is our fifth one this week,” the patrolman advised when he came to take the report. “They love doing it this time of year. Usually, they work in pairs,” he explained, “hanging out in a parked car, scouting a nicer neighborhood for people who leave their cars to warm up unlocked. You couldn’t lock your car and auto-start it?”

I loved my car. But my car was nothing fancy. And that’s putting it nicely compared to some of our neighbors.

Apparently this crime of opportunity is becoming commonplace in middle-class suburbs. Six patrol cars went looking for mine, but within minutes it was probably already well outside of town, even beyond county lines. What if my child had been in the backseat? Perhaps his presence would have been a turn-off if the criminals had noticed. I have a loud toddler. What if I had put a quiet baby in the car and run back inside for just one minute?

Mine isn’t a “high-class neighborhood” by far, but apparently, car thieves are targeting those and even making use of Google Maps to do it:

Turns out that some thieves in northern New Jersey have been using a cocktail of wit to steal cars right out of owner’s driveways.

First, they’re using Google Earth to scan wealthy northern New Jersey neighborhoods to scout homes with high-end cars in plain sight. From there, a local news station is reporting that the thieves take note of luxury vehicles with mirrors that aren’t folded in as that is one simple indicator as to whether or not it is locked, and there’s a chance the key fob is in the car.

Simply put, it’s a crime of opportunity with little work actually put into locating the vehicles.

So, Spies, the lesson is simple: If you leave your car in plain sight, unlocked and with the key fob in the vehicle then you’re setting yourself up to be taken advantage of. Even if you’re living in a low crime neighborhood, you’re giving a thief, or anyone for that matter, a chance to take your car for a spin.

Think your neighborhood is safe? Think again. “Unfortunately, unless you have a keyless system that keeps your car locked while it warms up, you can’t be 100 percent safe even if your car is on your driveway in a nice neighborhood like this,” the policeman warned. So much for the safety of the suburban middle-class neighborhood.