Criminals have found an easy workaround for new anti-theft devices in cars. They just wait for drivers to leave the key or fob inside.
The number of “freebie” vehicle thefts in the U.S. climbed 22 percent in 2015 to 57,096, according to a statement Tuesday from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
The group, which is dedicated to preventing industry losses, is seeking to highlight the risks of leaving keys unattended, even for a brief stretch as the driver runs for a cup of coffee or warms up the car on a cold morning. The risk can be compounded when people leave personal forms inside, as thieves have used the information to drive to victims’ unattended homes and steal more.
“Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don’t lock it up, it’s not going to help,” NICB President Joe Wehrle said in the statement. “Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience.”
The group advises motorists to photograph their registration and other paperwork with their mobile phone and not leave such documents in a vehicle. Also garage-door openers shouldn’t be left inside.
The 57,096 figure is based on a national crime database and probably understates the scope of the problem. That’s because many people may not admit to leaving their cars unlocked with the keys inside, the NICB said.