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Warm up your car in the morning? Keep it locked, police say

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crime and courts Hastings, 55033
Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

Similar circumstances in five recent vehicle thefts have Hastings police warning people to keep their car doors locked if they start their vehicles in the morning to warm them up.

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Since Jan. 19, five vehicles have been stolen after their owners started them and went back inside while the vehicles warmed up.

The scene has been pretty much the same in each case. Four of the five thefts have occurred between the hours of 4:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The vehicles have either been parked on the street or in a driveway.

In four of the five cases, the owner of the vehicle started the car, then went back inside for 10 or 15 minutes, only to come out and find his or her vehicle gone. In one case, the owner was still outside, but had their back turned when the suspect hopped in the car and drove off.

The stolen vehicles in all five cases have been recovered, according to Hastings Police Lt. Jim Rgnonti, three in Hastings, one in St. Paul and one in West St. Paul.

No windows have been broken to gain entry into the vehicles in any of the five cases, which suggests the thefts are crimes of opportunity, Rgnonti said. Also, there's been no evidence to suggest the thefts are being carried out in commission of other crimes, such as running drugs or committing burglaries. Rgnonti said they all seem like "joyriding" cases.

Because of the similar circumstances in all five thefts, Rgnonti said police believe they're related.

He thinks there's a group of people trolling Hastings neighborhoods in the mornings, looking for cars running in front of houses. He said the best thing people can do if they want to warm up their cars before leaving in the morning is use a spare key and lock their car doors.

When a vehicle is stolen, it's entered into the National Crime Information Center database, which is maintained by the FBI. Once it's entered, any law enforcement officer who runs a check on the license plate number will be told if it's listed as stolen.

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