Illegal or not, leaving your car unattended in the morning could be an invitation to thieves

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Leaving your car unattended while it warms up on a cold morning is basically an open invitation to thieves, according to the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

"It's not worth it," said Bianca Johnson, the public information coordinator for the SCMPD. "Just sit in your car and let it warm up."

It was formerly illegal in Georgia to leave cars unattended while the engine was running. That law was repealed. In South Carolina, it is still illegal.

However, officials say whether there is an official law on the books or not is not the top concern. They're more interested in protecting citizens from having their cars stolen.

"Police advise that people never leave their vehicles unattended or running for any amount of time," a release from the department reads. "Officers frequently see cases where vehicles are stolen while running to 'warm up' on cold mornings or at locations, like gas stations, where they only expect to be away from the vehicle for a few minutes."

On Nov. 1, the police department kicked off a social media campaign to combat increasing auto thefts in the area. A large part of that campaign is simply reminding people to be attentive.

The extra awareness could also spare the police department from sinking resources into auto theft investigations. As of Nov. 1, the SCMPD had responded to 1,742 entering auto cases and 775 auto thefts. Both are increases over 2016 numbers, and a sizeable portion the victims reported leaving their vehicles unlocked.

The SCMPD said most auto crimes are simply "crimes of opportunity," which means greater attentiveness would go a long way toward reducing the number of thefts.

"We understand that sometimes people are busy and just forget to lock their doors when they get home," Assistant Chief Robert Gavin said. "The goal of this campaign is to get people in the habit of securing their vehicles and removing their valuables each night."

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