Cold Weather and Car Thefts

Now that Old Man Winter has settled in for an extended visit, getting your car started and warmed up first thing in the morning can be a bit of a challenge.  Ice covered windows are usually the culprit when it comes to taking the longest to thaw out, and it can be tempting to start your vehicle, turn the defrost to high, and then go back inside your house to stay warm. 

Please do not do this! 

I know it is a freezing out, and I too begrudge having to scrape ice off the windshield (usually with my bank card because I can never find my elusive window-scraper), but if you leave your car running and unattended, you are simply setting yourself up to having your car stolen.  Many car thieves are opportunists, and a car equipped with keys in the ignition is often too welcome an opportunity to pass up.

There have been several 911 calls this year of people reporting their cars being stolen right out of the driveway.  In most cases, the car was left running, and the owner had gone back into the house to stay warm/turn lights off/let the dog out.  “I was only gone for a minute!” seems to be the favorite comment when this happens. 

Other drivers make it out of their driveways only to leave their vehicles running in the parking lot of the local Starbucks while they run in to grab a coffee.  Also not a good idea.  In the time it takes the barista to pour a cup of house brewed, your car could be blocks away.  It’s happened.  Quite a few times. 

When someone like this calls in, I try to gauge how far away the freshly stolen car could be by the type of coffee drink the driver ordered.  Just a regular coffee?  Then the car will probably be within a 20 block radius of the coffee shop.  But an ultra-complicated drink like a ‘grande-extra-hot-no-fat-half-sweet-no-sugar-vanilla-latte’ usually means the car has already made it out of the GVRD. 

On a more serious note, a case from last year comes to mind.  A man, on his way home late at night, stopped at a convenience store in a municipality just outside of Vancouver.  He left his car running, and went inside, ‘just for a minute’, to buy something.  An opportunistic car thief saw the running car, hopped in, and drove away.  Not only did the suspect drive away with the man’s car, he drove away with the man’s twenty-one month old daughter.  She was asleep in her car seat in the backseat. 

So began an intense Lower Mainland wide man-hunt.  The description of the car and the missing toddler were broadcast every five minutes, and every police officer was looking in every corner of every neighborhood. 

About an hour after she was spirited away, the toddler was found.  She was still strapped into her car seat, and still buckled into the rear seat of her father’s car, which was located in an underground parkade only a few minutes away from the convenience store.  The car’s location leads me to believe the suspect had no idea there had been a child in the car.  Maybe the little girl made a noise in her sleep, or maybe the suspect glanced into the rear view mirror and received the shock of his life when he saw her small sleeping form.  In any case, the suspect abandoned the car and the toddler. 

That story had a happy ending, and the recovery of the car ran a distant second to the need to find the little girl.  But what the story shows is how a moment of inattention can have drastic consequences.  Having your car stolen while you leave it running is at the least a major inconvenience. 

So, dig out your gloves and parka, and in the time it takes your car to heat up, you can have scraped all the ice off and dug yourself out of what passes for a snowbank on the West Coast.  Me?  I’m going to head out and buy yet another window scraper in preparation for the snowfall tonight!

Cheers!

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