VAIL — A New Year’s Day car theft has Vail Police reminding drivers to secure their vehicles. The incident happened at 8 a.m. that day, when a driver left her vehicle idling in a parking lot in West Vail.
By the time she returned from a quick trip inside a store, the vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban, had been stolen. Fortunately, the SUV was equipped with a remote locator and it was quickly found abandoned in the Intermountain neighborhood.
Thefts of unattended and running motor vehicles occur with greater frequency in the winter months and in the early morning hours, but these types of thefts can happen at any time of the year and any time of the day, according to Vail Police Sgt. Luke Causey.
A state law — “Unattended Motor Vehicle” act — is enforced in the town of Vail. It is illegal in Colorado to leave your car running unattended with the keys in the ignition. Vail officers can write tickets to discourage this invitation to car thieves.
“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 50 percent of cars stolen have the keys in them,” Causey said.
According to a survey conducted by Coloradans Against Auto Theft, a coalition of law enforcement agencies and insurance partners:
• One-third of those surveyed admit they have left their car while it was running.
• 47 percent don’t always park in a well-lit area.
• 40 percent don’t hide their valuables. Nearly half leave mail in their vehicle, a quarter have left a purse or wallet and almost a third have left bank statements, all of which can put victims at risk for identity theft.
• 35 percent did not know leaving their vehicle running unattended is illegal.
“Prevention is simple — don’t park your car and leave it unattended while it is running,” Causey said.
While leaving unattended cars running can earn the owner a ticket, auto theft remains rare in the valley. Avon Police Chief Bob Ticer said that town hasn’t had any thefts due to unattended idling.
But, he added, the practice “provides an opportunity for people to steal a car.”