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Queens Auto Thefts Heat Up After Drivers Leave Cars Running to Stay Warm

By Katie Honan | January 22, 2014 9:44am
 The drivers left their cars on to keep them warm while running errands, police said.
The drivers left their cars on to keep them warm while running errands, police said.
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Shutterstock/Katrina Brown

CORONA — They weren't firing on all cylinders.

A trio of bungling motorists had their cars boosted in Corona and Elmhurst recently after they left them running to keep warm while they got coffee, delivered pizza and ran errands.

The spike in auto thefts has gained so much traction that the local precinct commander vowed to ticket motorists who keep their cars running under the city's idling regulation.

"If your car's running, and my officers see it and they observe it for three minutes, they are going to write a summons." said Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, the commanding officer of the 110th Precinct, which covers the neighborhoods.

"And I do not feel bad for you."

The number of reported auto thefts in the precinct doubled as of Jan. 12 compared to statistics over a 28-day period from the same time last year, Leyson announced at the precinct's community council meeting Monday.

There were 12 car thefts during that period, up from six this time last year — and three of those occurred when the drivers left their cars running to make sure their rides stayed toasty.

One car was stolen at about 1 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2013 near the corner of 108th Street and 42nd Avenue in Corona, according to Leyson.

The driver left his car running and went into a nearby deli to get coffee, and when he came out it was gone, he said.

That car has not been found.

Around 11:15 p.m. that same day, a pizza deliveryman left his car unlocked and running on Van Cleef street near Westside Avenue, also in Corona, and had his wheels swiped while making a delivery, Leyson said.

The car was found the next day by an NYPD traffic agent on 111th Street and Corona Avenue.

Another car was stolen just before noon three days later on 83rd Street near 52nd Avenue in Elmhurst when a man was unloading his car after running errands, Leyson said.

The driver saw a man jump into the car and drive away and that car was recovered days later on Steinway Street in Astoria.

Earlier this month a man's car was nearly stolen in Jackson Heights, in the 115th Precinct, after he left it running to put money in a Muni-Meter. But the alleged car thief was foiled by a snow drift, and he was caught by police minutes later.

Leyson said he hopes the tickets he's ordered police to issue to owners of idling cars will discourage drivers from leaving cars running.

"When you're paying that ticket...you might remember next time, 'Maybe I'll take my keys with me,'" he said.