Savannah-Chatham police warn drivers against warming up unattended cars in cold weather

Savannah-Chatham police are warning drivers to not leave their cars unattended because they can be tempting to thieves. (Brittni Ray/Savannah Morning News)

Jumping into a warm car can seem ideal on a brutally cold winter day and many drivers are keen to heating up their vehicles during frigid weather.

 

But as the temperatures cool and the city braces for the upcoming winter, Savannah-Chatham police are warning drivers to not leave the cars to unattended because they can be tempting to thieves.

“Auto thefts are pretty spread out across the jurisdiction, “said APO Sharif Lockett. “When you leave your car unlocked, and especially while running and unattended, your chance of being a victim increases … Sometimes people leave their cars running to warm them up during the colder months, but this is highly discouraged.”

In September, the metropolitan police department investigated 11 auto thefts and 22 entering auto cases within seven days. Of those 11 cases, only one car was reported as being properly secured, according to Lockett.

“Many of these thefts are crimes of opportunity,” Lockett said. “In many cases, the offenders are searching for vehicles that have been left unsecured, have valuables left in plain sight or are left running.”

So far this year, metro police have investigated 775 auto thefts. That’s slightly up from the 772 cases the police department investigated by this time in 2016.

And thieves don’t discriminate when it comes to time of day. That was the case with resident Shannon Burns who had his vehicle stolen just before sunrise on a recent day.

The Savannah man left his “truck running around 7:20 a.m. because he was warming it up,” according to police reports. Within minutes, the car was gone.

“A juvenile who had been walking down the street jumped in the driver seat and took off with the vehicle,” the report states.

And cases likes Burns’ are growing in frequency.

“Officers frequently see cases where vehicles are stolen while left running to ‘warm up’ on cold mornings or at locations, like gas stations,” said spokeswoman Bianca Johnson.

So police urge drivers to use caution when it comes to their vehicles.

“Individuals should always lock their vehicles,” Lockett said. “SCMPD encourages the community to not leave their car running and unattended for any length of time. It only takes a few minutes for a vehicle to be stolen.”

To be proactive, police advise the following tips:

  • Always lock your vehicle and hide your items.
  • Never leave your vehicle unattended and running.
  • Never keep a spare key in your vehicle even if the doors are locked.
  • Bring firearms inside at night and secure them in a safe spot away from children.
  • Park in well-lit areas, if possible.

More