AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Amarillo police want to remind residents about how leaving your car warming up and unattended this time of year can lead to it being stolen.
They are reporting 50 stolen automobiles already this month and 46 of them had keys left inside or were left running.
“What we have to realize is that we have criminals that are out everyday looking for those vehicles,” said Cpl. Jeb Hilton with APD. “They look for the exhaust that’s going and make sure nobody’s in the vehicle or around the vehicle and they pull up, they take it. It takes less than a second for them to jump in and take your vehicle.”
Hilton said sometimes these criminals just happen to see a car running and decide to take advantage of the opportunity.
Other times, they’re actively seeking one out and may use the vehicle to commit other crimes.
“Sometimes we’ll see it as a crime of opportunity if it’s left running at a gas station or a convenience store and somebody comes by and just happens to see that," he said. “But what we see mostly is people are out looking to commit this crime and they’re taking advantage of it when you’re leaving your vehicle running.”
Crime Prevention Coordinator for the Panhandle Auto Burglary and Theft Unit, Tammy Chervenka, said in addition to residential areas and convenience stores, hotel parking lots are another common target.
“People come, spend the night, leave a spare key in their vehicle, they’re moving,” she said. “They’ll pull up at a hotel, leave their keys in it, leave the vehicle running, run in to grab a room, come back out and their vehicle’s gone.”
They advise those who have remote start on their vehicles to use it if they need to.
“Remote start is the easiest thing to do,” said Chervenka. “If you have remote start on your vehicle, start it and let it warm up. You don’t have to be out there with it.”
The APD has recovered about 57 stolen vehicles this month.
They said it’s easier to recover vehicles when the owner knows the license plate and VIN number.
“If you don’t know your license plate, if you don’t know your VIN number, then it’s going to be a lot harder for us to track that,” said Hilton. “The best thing you can do is not leave your vehicle running, you know, start it, sit in it, or just get in it cold and go where you’re needing to go. It’ll warm up pretty quick.”