Reports of stolen cars skyrocket throughout Philadelphia this winter

Philadelphia Police Department van

(Miguel Martinez/Billy Penn)

Reports of stolen cars throughout Philadelphia have surged over the winter months. Since November alone, approximately 1,800 stolen vehicles have been reported to the police department.

Every winter, the city experiences an increase in car theft. That’s mainly due to a common practice among car owners: leaving the keys in the ignition to warm their vehicles as they attend to business away from their cars.

According to Capt. Jack Ryan of Philadelphia Police, about one-third of the stolen cars were taken with keys left inside. Though, on average, older cars are the primary target for car thieves, newer cars are also vulnerable, he said.

“Now, with the more modern cars with the key fobs, a lot of people are leaving a set of keys in the car, and it just allows thieves to drive off with their cars,” said Ryan, who serves as commanding officer of the department’s Major Crimes Unit.

Car theft poses a host of other issues for the city, including its negative impact on Philadelphia’s growing gun violence epidemic. It is not rare for gun owners to store their weapons in their cars. The problem arises when a car is stolen and the weapon ends up in the wrong hands.

Car thefts are also a child-safety concern. On rare occasions, car thieves have unknowingly taken off in stolen vehicles with children who were left in the back seat.

Though Philadelphia did not make the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of Top 10 cities with the highest per capita rate of car thefts in the United States, car theft is still a prevalent issue here.

There are preventative measures local residents can take: turning off the car and taking the keys with you when you leave your vehicle, storing weapons safely in your home or another secure location, and removing extra keys or fobs from your car altogether.

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