Police ask residents not to leave vehicles unattended while they let their cars warm up


Police are asking residents not to leave vehicles unattended while they let their cars warm up due to a recent increase in auto thefts.

Police suspect that many of the thefts are crimes of opportunity in which the thief walks by an unlocked car with the key in the ignition. In one incident a high school student was arrested in the 4800 block of West Belmont Avenue after he was seen driving a car that he reportedly had stolen with the engine running.

"All of sudden they see a car running, and now they have a plan for the day," 16th (Jefferson Park) District commander William Looney said at the Jan. 19 meeting of the 16th District Advisory Committee. Many of the incidents have occurred south of Irving Park Road, according to police.

There were 28 vehicles reported stolen in the district in the first half of January, compared to 15 during the same period last yea. There also have been seven arrests for vehicle theft during that period, compared to none last year.

Some of the stolen cars were later found parked near schools, including Kelvyn Park High School, and on the West Side, Looney said. Only one of the recently found cars was stripped of parts, he said.

In some instances officers will run the license plates of unattended vehicles they see with the engine running in an effort to track down the owner and ask them to get to their car, Looney said. If the door is unlocked and the owner cannot be located, a ticket will be issued, he said.

A city ordinance requires drivers not to leave their vehicle unattended while the engine is running. An exception is made for vehicles with remote starters, but under a sticker stating that the car has a remote starter must be in place on the windshield, according to police.

Looney said that if someone breaks into a car in which the remote starter has been activated, the engine should turn off if the proper key is not used to drive the vehicle.

It also was reported that the district and local aldermen have been working with car dealerships on Irving Park Road to address incidents in which thieves have been searching car lots for vehicles in which keys had been left inside.

Also at the meeting, police warned residents about recent incidents in which thieves are following delivery trucks and stealing delivered packages from porches. Looney said that residents should consider having orders shipped to a store which accepts and holds packages for pick-up.

The committee gave its "Officer of the Month Award" to Eric Bellomy and Matthew Scott for their Nov. 26 arrest of two suspected gang members after one of them was found to possess a handgun. Officers questioned the suspects after their car was stopped for traffic violations.