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Sheriff warns against vehicle warm up theft

Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma is warning residents about the problem of auto theft that occurs this time of year when people leave their car running without them in it.

“During the extreme cold Michigan has been experiencing recently, there is increased temptation to start your vehicle and go back inside to let it warm up,” said Sheriff Lawrence Stelma.  “The problem is that crooks may target people who do this.

Crooks have been known to “patrol” neighborhoods looking for unoccupied running vehicles.”

Stelma said they may work in teams, with one person driving the car and the passenger prepared to jump out when an unattended, running vehicle is spotted. Some thieves target only unlocked cars, but others will break out a window, if necessary.

If warming up your car is absolutely necessary, Sheriff Stelma recommends you invest in a remote car starter. These are designed to allow your car to start and warm up without the key, but disable the vehicle if anyone tries to put the car in gear before inserting the key.

If a remote car starter is not an option for you and you insist on staying inside your home while your car warms up Sheriff Stelma recommends you follow these important tips:

* Keep a watchful eye on your car from inside the house.
* Make sure you have a backup key so you can lock the door to your car.
* Don’t keep your “warm up” key on a ring with your house keys.  If you do, the thief * will also have access to your home.
* If you leave your car running in the garage, partially close the garage door.  This will still allow the exhaust fumes to escape but serve as a deterrent to the thief.

“It is very easy to avoid falling victim to this crime,” said Sheriff Stelma. “By remaining with your vehicle during warm up, you will deter thieves who are looking for an easy mark.”

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