From the Harford County Sheriff’s Office:
The Harford County Sheriff’s Office Auto Theft Unit will once again be conducting proactive investigations beginning November 5, 2013 and continuing randomly throughout the winter months to raise public awareness for people who leave their vehicle’s engine running and unattended.
Sgt. Dawn Wolf, Supervisor of the Sheriff’s Office Property Crimes Unit, says members of the Auto Theft Unit will be conducting targeted enforcement while members of the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Patrol will conduct random patrols of shopping areas, convenience stores and residential communities looking for vehicles left running and unattended. “We understand it is convenient for people to leave the engine idling and run into a store for a quick errand or cup of coffee”, Wolf said, acknowledging that everyone has done it at one time or another. “But while making it convenient for yourself”, she said, “You are also making it very convenient for the thief who wants to steal your car”. Wolf explained people often assume the car is taken for a joy ride and it will be recovered within a few hours and only a few miles away. However, she says, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. “While statistically 52% of the stolen vehicles are recovered”, she explained, “The reality of the remaining 48% that are not recovered is that they most likely have been chopped up and sold for parts”. “It prompts police to ask drivers if the convenience is really worth it”, Wolf added.
Sgt. Wolf said, national auto theft statistics report nationally a car is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States. In Maryland, which ranks among the top 10 states in the country for auto theft, a vehicle is stolen every 15 minutes. “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 50% of the vehicles stolen had their keys left in the vehicle”, she said.
“Maryland law prohibits drivers from leaving a vehicle unattended until the engine is stopped, the ignition locked and the key removed”, Wolf said. Police can issue a traffic citation to any driver found in violation and if found guilty could face a fine of $70 and one-point on their driving record. Wolf offers that citizens should use common sense when parking and leaving your vehicle. She recommends:
– Take your key; don’t leave it in or on your vehicle.
– Close and lock all windows and doors when you park.
– Park in well-lit areas – in a garage, if possible.
– Never leave valuables in your vehicle, and if you do choose to leave them in your auto, then place them out of sight.