Ever leave your car running to warm it up? Beware thieves

You could come back to this instead of a warm car.

You could come back to this instead of a warm car.

It's one of these cold winter mornings, and you start your car to let it warm up while you head back inside to finish your coffee.

When you come back outside, ready to leave, your car is gone.

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"As the weather gets colder, auto thefts increase," says Rowena Holmes, a crime prevention specialist for the 4th Precinct. "I'm seeing at least several per week."

It's one thing for a thief to break into a car and then have to figure out how to start it. But when a car is left running, even if it's locked, a thief can break a window or jimmy the door in seconds, and then drive off.

"It's a huge temptation," says Holmes. "It's like taking candy from a baby. The car is there. They need a ride, or they want a ride, they just take the car."

Police are often able to recover stolen cars, Holmes says, but not before the thieves damage them or steal things out of them.

If your car is recovered and your keys are in it, you might also get a ticket. It's against city ordinance to leave a key in the ignition if you're not in the car, and officers have been issuing $34 tickets to cars running without a driver around.

Remote car starters are legal, but may still tempt thieves.

The best thing to do in the cold: Just deal with being cold, and follow standard car procedure. "Turn your car off," says Holmes. "Lock your car, and take your keys."