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Car thefts rising as the temperature drops

Salt Lake City Police say car thefts spike in cold temperature months, because people let their vehicles warm without sitting inside. (PHOTO: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Salt Lake City Police are warning residents that more cars are stolen the colder it gets.

The problem is people warming their vehicle without actually sitting inside.

Police say thieves walk the streets, alleys and parking lots looking for vacant vehicles already running that would provide them with an effortless theft.

“There are many instances during the winter where that happens,” explains Salt Lake City Police Detective Michael Ruff. “As soon as it gets cold we see that spike in cars being stolen and we’d like to avoid that if we can.”

Detective Ruff says more times than not, it’s unnecessary to pre-warm a vehicle and it would eliminate the threat of a thief easily driving away.

According to him, the problem is already popping up now that cold temperatures are settling in.

“I did hear one this morning and I heard one that was taken from a driveway that was idling over the radio,” he says.

But it’s not just secluded or residential areas that are targeted.

Cops say thieves will also look to drive away with an empty vehicle left running in public places.

“We see people pull up to a convenience store to run in and grab coffee or something in the morning and they’ll hit there,” says Detective Ruff. “They’ll take a car right out in front of a spot.”

As it turns out, crime data supports the police department’s warning.

Data taken from the Salt Lake City Police Department website shows 115 vehicle thefts took place in January of this year.

That is about 30 more vehicle thefts, on average, compared to more temperate months in the spring.