Don't leave your vehicle idling unattended in cold weather

Friday , December 01, 2017 - 5:00 AM1 comment

LT. TIM SCOTT, special to the Standard-Examiner

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly column from members of the Ogden Police Department addressing public safety issues.

A driver stops at a local convenience store and goes inside for a gallon of milk. He comes back outside to his car, which he left running unattended. His car is gone. Also gone possibly are the keys to his home, his Christmas presents, and much worse, a child in a car seat.

I recall a similar event that happened in Ogden in January 2015. It was cold outside. Cold enough that we were already addressing running unattended vehicle and auto theft issues. A young mother left her son in the car as she quickly ran into day care. The boy was 3 years old. When the woman came outside, her car was gone. A 911 call was made to police with the vehicle description and last known location. We responded quickly and used every resource when we learned it involved a 3-year-old child. An alert for a stolen car has a sense of importance to officers in the field. You add a child into the equation, and the sense of importance increases significantly. The suspect eventually abandoned the car with the boy inside, unharmed. Thanks to quick thinking and the child answering mom's phone, we were able track him down by the sound of him honking the car’s horn.

For us, thankfully, children taken inside stolen cars is not that common. The most common scenario is someone leaving their vehicle running unattended in the driveway as they are getting ready for work in the morning. Ready for the day ahead, they walk out and their car is gone, with no known suspect and no known direction of travel. Often times the owner only knows the color and model of their vehicle.

We have seen reductions in the number of cars stolen in Ogden. We want to continue that downward trend. In December 2015 there were 772 cars stolen statewide in Utah. During this same time, Ogden City saw 25 cars stolen. The following year this was down to 15 stolen cars in Ogden. That is a 40 percent reduction in the number of cars stolen in Ogden City from one year to the next. We can directly attribute that to the community efforts the police have been engaged in to curb auto theft.

The Ogden Police Department will be out again this year working with the community to help prevent auto thefts. Every winter, we see an increase in the number of auto thefts as the cold weather starts. Opportunistic criminals take advantage of the cold weather and unattended cars warming up. For them, it’s easy. The criminal is walking by, sees no one around, tries the door and drives away in a stolen car. It only takes seconds.

Utah Traffic code Title 41, Chapter 6a, Part 14 requires the person in charge or operating a motor vehicle to stop the engine when the vehicle stands unattended. You may get a knock on your door if you leave your car running in the driveway. You may have an officer waiting outside the convenience store for you if you leave your car running in a parking stall. Every year we start with warnings and educational contacts. There are citations issued at times. Our ultimate goal is to work with the community to prevent auto thefts.

What can you do to prevent your car from being stolen? When parked, do not leave your keys in the car. Do not leave your car running and unattended. Do not leave valuables in plain sight. Do not leave your vehicle title in the car; this makes things too easy for a thief to change your registration ownership.

There are a number of products out there to help with snow and ice buildup. There are windshield covers and of course the ice scraper.

What do you do if your car is stolen? Stay calm and call the police. If the crime is in progress, dial 911. Have your license plate number, vehicle year, vehicle make, and vehicle model available. It is always a good idea to keep a photo of your registration documents and a picture of your car on your cell phone. Stolen cars can be recovered locally, but often times they are driven out of the area and possibly out of state. Make sure you provide a phone number you can be reached on 24 hours a day. After a police report is made be prepared to contact your insurance company and start that process.

Lt. Tim Scott commands the Ogden Police Department Investigations Bureau. He has more than 22 years of law enforcement experience.

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