MILWAUKEE -- We're only 13 days into 2016, and already, there have been a number of car thefts in Milwaukee. Police say the majority of these thefts have occurred when folks have left their vehicles unattended while they warm them up. In fact, Milwaukee police say the number of vehicles stolen with their keys inside is more than double what it was at this time last year.
It takes just seconds for a thief to steal your vehicle.
Police say your providing car thieves with an opportunity -- an invitation even, when you leave your vehicle unattended and running in an effort to warm it up.
"It only takes seconds for a thief to get in your car and drive away," Heather Wurth, captain with the Milwaukee Police Department said.
"We just had our van stolen this past summer," Lilia Larriuz said.
Larriuz says her van was locked -- but yet it was gone in the blink of an eye.
"When I opened the door, our van was out there. Five minutes later, our guest left, and the van wasn`t there anymore -- so they're pretty quick," Larriuz said.
It is now winter, and Larriuz says the problem continues. A vehicle was recently stolen from her neighborhood near 33rd and Mitchell -- and police say its owner left the vehicle running for just a moment while he threw out some trash.
"The numbers that we`ve seen, at least for this year alone -- and it's only the 13th day of January -- we`ve seen nearly double in just this two-week time period from the same time period last year," Wurth said.
Wurth says these thefts are not just happening in residential areas.
"People are leaving their cars running when they run into corner stores or coffee shops or the gas stations -- those types of things," Wurth said.
Wurth says while the cold may be tempting people to leave their vehicles running for a bit before hitting the road, it can also make an arrest in the case of a theft more difficult.
"The level of concealment that some of the thieves are having -- hats, masks, gloves, those types of things, which makes it even doubly hard for us to try to identify some of these suspects," Wurth said. "A cold car is better than no car at all."
In Milwaukee, we've seen stolen vehicles being used in other crimes (for example, rolling drug houses, where drug dealers use stolen vehicles to deliver drugs to their customers) -- so that's something else for drivers to keep in mind.