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Take your keys or take your chances

RICHMOND, Va. — Take your keys or take your chances. That’s what the Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft program is reminding drivers to do this holiday season.

“How many times have you seen a car left running while the driver goes into a store,” said First Sergeant Steve Hall, HEAT program coordinator. “Better yet, how often do you leave your vehicle idling unattended to warm up on a cold morning?”

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that 44,828 of the vehicles stolen nationally from January to June of last year had the keys inside.

“There’s no doubt you run a much greater risk of having your vehicle stolen if you leave your keys in a parked or idling vehicle,” Hall said. 

Just last week, a Norfolk mother left her child inside her running car while she went into her place of employment. Her vehicle was stolen with the 8-year-old still inside. The child was unharmed.

“Auto theft is a crime of opportunity,” Hall said. “And it’s certainly an issue in Virginia.”

VSP reported 7,542 motor vehicle thefts in its 2014 Crime in Virginia report. And while that’s down from 8,318 motor vehicle thefts in 2013, Hall cautions against complacency.

“There were more than 1,100 motor vehicle thefts in Virginia last November and December combined. Just play it safe. Always take your keys, keep valuables out of sight and lock your doors.”