PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria resident Fredrick Leathers’ black Chevy was stolen from his home early Monday morning, just off Sterling Avenue.

“Came back to pour my coffee and I’m seeing someone pull out the driveway in my vehicle,” he said.

Leathers said he’s left feeling stunned and deprived. He bought the car just a year and half ago.

“It kind of shocked me because no one never walks around this neighborhood, nobody’s ever in this neighborhood,” Leathers said. “Something was taken from me, something that I worked hard to pay for.”

Auto theft investigator Brian Terry said almost 600 cars have been stolen in Peoria just this year alone. That’s 250 more than last year.

“It’s completely at random. It could range anything from a 10 to15 year old car that’s left running to a brand new car that’s left running,” he said.

Terry said its not an organized group, but the same 20 teenagers who have taught others how to steal cars. He said the teens “drive them until they wreck them,” often resulting in a totaled vehicle.

“The suspects are walking around, they see a vehicle that’s running. It takes them literally 15 seconds to run up, jump in the car and just drive off,” he said.

Most are crimes of opportunity, Terry said. Cars are often stolen off streets and driveways, at gas stations and shopping centers.

“Some place where you’re gonna run in quick and come right back out in a minute or two. Those seem to be the popular spots,” Terry said.

To avoid becoming a target, Terry is pleading with the community to be cautious and alert.

“The only safe way to keep your car running and unoccupied is with a remote start system,” Terry said. “I got a lot of cases on my desk, I’m tired. Just lock your cars please, don’t leave it running.”

Terry said they recover about 80% of stolen vehicles, usually within a week.