Auto Thefts Surging as Drivers Leave Unattended Cars Running, Police Say

By Rachel Holliday Smith on May 16, 2014 1:54pm 

 More than half of car thefts in the past month have been due to drivers leaving their cars empty and idling with the keys in the ignition, according to Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, commanding officer of the 71st.
More than half of car thefts in the past month have been due to drivers leaving their cars empty and idling with the keys in the ignition, according to Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, commanding officer of the 71st.
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CROWN HEIGHTS — Police have a message for car owners — never step away from your vehicle with the motor running.

Auto thefts are surging in the 71st Precinct as absent-minded drivers leave their cars idling with the keys in the ignition, according to Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon.

“When you put candy in front of a baby, they’re going to want to take it,” Fitzgibbon told residents Thursday night at a precinct community council meeting held at M.S. 61.

Auto thefts in the precinct — which covers the southern portion of Crown Heights plus Prospect-Lefferts Gardens — are up nearly 14 percent this year through May 4, compared to the same period in 2013.

Twenty-five cars have been reported stolen in the 71st Precinct so far this year, compared with 22 stolen in the same time last year, according to police records. Almost half of the reports this year occurred in the past four weeks alone.

Out of 10 reported vehicle thefts in the in the precinct in the past 28 days alone, 6 occured after drivers left their running cars unattended, Fitzgibbon said.

One theft happened while a man dropped off his child at school, he said. The other unlucky drivers were unpacking groceries, packing their cars for trips out of town or running back inside for a moment.

“Car’s running, they go inside, they come out and their car’s gone,” he said.Car thefts in the area surge seasonally, Fitzgibbon said

“You’ll see it happen a lot in the dead of winter because nobody wants to turn their car off because, God forbid they get cold,” he added. “Now, in the summertime, it’s getting warm, so it’s the air conditioning. We just have to remind people.”

Several auto thefts were reported in Corona and Elmhurst this winter after keys were left in ignitions. Cars were stolen in the same way in upper Manhattan, according to the 33rd Precinct.

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