PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Winter is typically the time of year where people warm-up their cars before leaving for their next destination, the problem is some people end up leaving their keys inside the car and walking away.
Peoria police said they’ve seen a recent trend of automobile thefts related to this pre-planning ritual. Amy Dotson, public information officer, said opportunists wait for these exact moments to attack.
“It’s called the ‘warm-up theft technique’,” Dotson said. “The mistake they make is they go outside, they take their keys, start the car then they leave it running with the keys in it unlocked and unattended.”
Dotson said these mistakes leave drivers wide open to have their cars stolen. These mistakes have also left drivers like Frances Sardinha feeling unsettled.
“It hits home, it hits your heart because you can’t trust your neighbors anymore,” Sardinha said. “Times are changing and we really need to rebuild the trust and camaraderie in our community.”
Sardinha said when she first moved to Peoria a few years ago, she felt comfortable stepping away from her car to let it warm up. Now, she said she takes extra precautions when it comes to the safety of her vehicle.
“Now, if I do it I have two keys so I have the car started and I lock my doors and watch from my window,” Sardinha said.
There are other drivers like Eric Bergstresser, owner of The Wassi Group, who offer alternatives for drivers such as using the automatic starter.
“It’d be very smart of people to go out and purchase a remote start,” Bergstresser said. “I have a remote start and it allows me to start my vehicle from almost a half a mile away.”
Although officer Dotson said Peoria’s detectives are great at locating stolen vehicles, she also asked for drivers to not make it easy for them to get stolen in the first place.
“We don’t want this to happen,” Dotson said. “Please don’t leave your keys in the car unlocked, unattended and running.”
Officer Doton also said it is illegal in Illinois to leave your keys in your car, unattended while running; however, she said the police department’s main priority is encouraging drivers not to do it at all.