Police warn people to put their guard up when warming up cars in driveway

SALT LAKE CITY — A handful of people across the Salt Lake Valley were left out in the cold this morning after thieves stole their cars idling in their driveways.

Police said criminals stole idling vehicles in West Valley City, Magna and Salt Lake City. These crimes of opportunity spike when temperatures drop.

“The person's not necessarily looking to steal the car, initially. They may be looking for items of value in the car. But as soon as they find the key, they decide that they want the car more than the owner does,” said Sgt. Brandon Shearer with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

So far this year, 130 idling cars in driveways have been stolen in Salt Lake City and police expect that number to climb.

“Every year, we have people that literally say 'I only went in the house in a couple of seconds' and I believe them. But that's all it takes for someone to steal a car if they see it running with the keys in it,” said Sgt. Shearer.

Cars don’t even have to be idling. Police said some car owners make it too easy for thieves.

“We've had an additional 195 cars that were stolen - not warming up necessarily in driveways - but someone left the keys in the vehicle,” said Sgt. Shearer.

Every year, West Valley City Police officers drive around neighborhoods looking for people who leave their cars idling in their driveways to warm them up.

“The suggestion that we have is that they bundle up and dress for the colder weather and plan on sitting in the car until all the windows are defrosted and it's safe to drive on the roadways,” said Lt. Blair Barfuss, with the West Valley City Police Department.

It’s against the law in Salt Lake City to idle your car for more than two minutes, but officers admit they rarely cite offenders. They see education as their biggest tool.

“Hopefully, we see a decrease in the amount of cars stolen because people are getting the message,” said Sgt. Shearer. “If we see it as a problem, it may be something we do address in the future.”

Police said another important thing to keep in mind is that most insurance companies don't cover stolen cars that were left running with their keys inside.