Spike in South Austin car thefts to start 2015

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Cold temperatures helped lead to a spike in stolen cars over the past few weeks in South Austin. But police say some of the victims made it too easy for a thief to steal their car.

Within the first two weeks of the year, there were 28 thefts reported in South Austin. Seven of the 28 stolen cars were left running outside and unattended by the driver. Another seven of the reported stolen vehicles were left unlocked with the keys inside.

“First and most important, you never want to leave your car unattended for any amount of time…even if it’s cold,” said Austin Police Sgt. Chris Hallas. “You’re going to have to deal with the cold for a little bit. It’s better than having your car stolen.”

More than 2,000 Austinites have their car stolen each year. Numbers from the police department show Austin has averaged between 2,200 and 2,300 car thefts each year. This past year, the number went up about 5 percent to almost 2,300.

Breaking the law

Did you know it is against the law to leave your car parked with the engine running?

State lawmakers passed the Unattended Motor Vehicle statute back in 1995. The law says a driver who leaves a vehicle unattended has to stop the engine, remove the key, and set the parking brake.

If you don’t do that, you could face a ticket of up to $200, or even end up in jail for up to 30 days.

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