RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Lock your car and turn it off, or you may lose it. The city of Richmond is warning residents about a dramatic increase in the number of car thefts. Police say a majority of them were avoidable.
Jessica Smith admits, she's done it before,"Typically when it's cold outside. You want to leave your heat running the car or something."
Most people we spoke to say they see others do it all the time.
"I'm just looking around to wonder why would they leave their cars running and sometimes they have kids in the back so I just don't understand it," said Crystal Fisher.
"I see it all the time. I work at a 7-11 and they do it all the time. Come in the store get a cup of coffee, leave the car running," added Smith.
Police say they had 16 reports of stolen cars last week. That's four times the number they saw during the same time last year.
"This dramatic increase was largely attributed to a significant number of people leaving their cars running with the keys in the ignition," explained Captain Harvey Powers.
Police say it's happening everywhere: in shopping centers, near homes, and in apartment parking lots. They say unlocked running cars are just easy targets.
"Obviously, a piece of glass in your side door isn't going to stop anybody. The easiest car to steal is the one that's already running," said Powers.
And thought it may be an inconvenience to get in a cold car, they say recovering a stolen car is a lot more work.
"Don't volunteer to be a victim," said Powers. "Take your keys in with you."
Police don't' believe these crimes are related. They say about half of the cars have been recovered, though some have damage related to the theft.