Thieves get early start on stealing warming cars

Every year, opportunistic thieves steal cars from people who leave them idling to warm them up. This season, the bad guys are starting early with victims in Olathe.

Even though the cold weather is barely starting, such thievery has already more than doubled from the same time last year, Olathe police said this week.

So far, at least seven vehicles have vanished this year compared with three for the same point in each of the last two years, said Sgt. Grant Allen.

He issued a warning this week telling residents not to leave keys in an unlocked, unoccupied, idling car. Not only do crooks like such easy targets, it’s illegal to leave vehicles idling.

Police put out similar warnings every year, but every year some drivers ignore the tip and sometimes find their cars stolen. With the anti-theft technology in many of today’s cars, it’s much easier to steal one left idling in a driveway than one that’s locked with the engine off, Allen said.

And thieves often use stolen cars in other crimes, which makes the situation even more serious.

One way to break the cycle is to install remote start devices, which sell from about $150 to $600 plus installation fees, Allen said. They let someone start a car remotely to warm it, but the car still requires a key to be driven.