Virginia State Police Press Release:

RICHMOND, Va.— The Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program is urging citizens to think twice before leaving their vehicles unattended with the keys inside.

During the cooler months and holiday shopping season, securing your vehicle is vital in preventing a potential theft.

"Sadly during the holiday season, thieves are looking for crimes of opportunity and an unattended running vehicle is an easy target," said 1st Sgt. Thomas Molnar, HEAT Program Coordinator. “Over the past month, several vehicles have been stolen because all the thief had to do was get inside and drive away.”

Leaving a vehicle unattended with the engine running on chilly days or leaving valuable items in plain view makes your vehicle an attractive target for thieves. According to the 2017 Crime in Virginia Report, more than 1,600 vehicles were stolen across the state in the months of November and December in 2017. That’s roughly 27 vehicles a day.

“A significant number of vehicles stolen in Virginia still have the keys in the ignition. This time of year it’s important for motorist to remember to remove their keys from the ignition and lock the vehicle doors every single time,” explained Molnar.

In addition to locking your doors and taking your keys, to create added layers of protection, the HEAT program recommends the following safety tips this holiday season: park in well-lit areas, conceal valuable items in a trunk or somewhere out of sight, be aware of your surroundings when out and about, and invest in an immobilizer or tracking device.

“We know it seems convenient to warm up your vehicle on a cold day or leave it running while you go into the store. However, locking it up and taking your keys while you're away is all it takes to deny thieves the opportunity to steal your vehicle," Molnar said.