MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- With more bone-chilling temperatures coming, the Milwaukee Police Department continues to remind drivers to NOT leave their vehicle running unattended.
Another blast of arctic air is headed our way -- with temperatures expected to plummet Tuesday, February 17th. Temperatures should be around 0 by Wednesday morning, with wind chills between -10 to -15. The bitter cold continues Wednesday with highs in the single digits and wind chills between -10 and -15. Thursday morning, we could see wind chills as low as -25.
With this in mind, Milwaukee police want to warn drivers they're putting their car at risk of being stolen by leaving it running with the key in the ignition. Not only is it illegal, but MPD has continued to see these types of auto thefts increase as winter drags on.
"There's this natural inclination of denial -- it's not going to happen to me. It can happen in the city of Milwaukee. It can happen in the suburbs," Milwaukee Police Captain Victor Beecher said.
On Tuesday morning, February 17th, Milwaukee police received a call about a car left running to warm it up in a driveway in the 7000 block of W. Acacia St. That car was stolen. Two hours later, Milwaukee Police Department District 4 Officers Shalamar Leflore and Phillip Lewis found the car on a sidewalk one mile away in the 8200 block of W. Winfield Ave.
"A thief walking by sees the car unattended, engine running -- gets in and drives away," Beecher said.
Police say it appears the thief or thieves took the vehicle for a joyride. The driver lost control on a curve and slid past some garbage cans, ultimately stopping on the sidewalk. The car was wedged in a snow bank with some damage to the front end.
When officers found the car, it was still running with the passenger door wide open.
Police say there were at least 15 vehicles with the key in the ignition stolen on Monday, February 16th. Most thefts took place between 4:30 and 7:30 in the morning. On Tuesday, 20 out of 22 vehicles reported stolen were left running with the key in the ignition, according to police.
MPD's District 7 reported that over the weekend, 14 of 15 stolen autos were left running unattended.
"There are groups of individuals that for the purposes of getting cars to commit crimes will go out in the morning searching for cars that are left running and unattended so that they can steal them and use them," Beecher said.
Police advise: Do not leave your car running. If you do, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of losing your car to an opportunistic thief:
LOCK THE DOORS. Use a second key to be able to lock the car after starting it.
GET A REMOTE STARTER. Remote starters are the safest, and only legal way to keep your car running while unattended. With the key out of the ignition, a thief can't put the car in gear.
USE A CLUB: Lock the steering wheel with a "Club" steering wheel lock to discourage thieves from targeting your car.
STAY WITH THE CAR. It's better to be cold for a few minutes in your car while it warms up than to be left in the cold when a thief drives it away.