Police: Idling cars are prime targets for thieves

January 01, 2019 06:10 PM

Police in the Twin Cities are renewing a warning to drivers that leaving their cars running unattended could lead to a ticket and, often times, something worse.

As the temperatures dropped to single digits on New Year's Day, police say they're tracking a related increase in stolen cars – many with the keys still inside.


That trend has the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments pleading with drivers to avoid starting their cars and going back inside to stay warm.

"Even if the car is secured, locked up, but still running and there's a key in it, we've had people smashing windows to steal cars," said John Elder, director of public information for Minneapolis Police. "The message is: You run a much higher risk of having your car stolen if it's idling and you're not with it."

Elder tells KSTP the department has seen a concentration of stolen cars in the Whittier, Lowry Hill East and Stevens Square neighborhoods.

More from KSTP:

Investigation underway after vehicle stolen in St. Paul found in St. Cloud

St. Paul police say about half of the cars stolen on the city's east side last month still had the keys inside. Over the course of one week last month, police in Minneapolis say 18 of 21 stolen cars in the southeast part of the city still had the keys inside.

"I actually had no idea. I didn't even know it was a thing," said Sydney Rehbein as she and a group of friends got into a Jeep on Grand Ave. that had been idling for more than ten minutes.

"I don't like getting in a cold car. I guess it's worth it for me," Rehbein said.

She and her friends did use a remote starter to turn on the vehicle, which police say is allowed by city ordinances. But there is still a time limit on how long a car is supposed to idle. In Minneapolis, it's 3 to 5 minutes per hour, depending on the type of vehicle.

"No one's sitting out there with a stopwatch and remote starts are acceptable. People just need to be cautious how long they're letting it idle for," Elder said.

Others who live in areas hit by an increase in car thefts say they've gotten the message and avoid the temptation to warm up their cars before getting in.

"I'm from the south side, so I don't because of that exact reason," said Isaiah Whitmore, who spoke to KSTP in the Stevens Square neighborhood. "You put a cookie jar up on a shelf or whatever and you tell a kid, 'Don't touch it,' why would they not touch it if you leave, you know?"

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Eric Rasmussen

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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