Area ranks high for key-in-car auto thefts

Boardman-Warren-Youngstown metropolitan area sixth in state

WARREN — Some car thieves do not have to work very hard to steal their next vehicle, especially during fall and winter.

All they have to do is look inside the door to find the car keys hanging from the ignition.

Ohio ranks fourth in the U.S. in the number of vehicle thefts in which its keys were left inside and the vehicle is left unlocked, according to a report by the National Insurance  Crime Bureau (NCIB).  The Boardman-Warren-Youngstown metropolitan statistical area ranked sixth in Ohio for the number of vehicle thefts in which the keys were left in the vehicle.

The study examines auto thefts with keys left inside the vehicles in every state in the U.S.  from January 2013 through December 2015, according to Mary Bonelli, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Insurance Institute.

There were 147,434 reported vehicle thefts with the keys in them during this period. The most vehicle thefts with the keys left in them occur during the winter months, according to the report’s authors Olivia Ortiz and Josh Cahill.

During the three-year period, there were 486  thefts with keys left in the vehicles in the Boardman, Warren, Youngstown area. Of those vehicles, 40 have not been recovered.

Areas with a higher number of thefts with keys left in the vehicle include the Cleveland/Elyria MSA, 2,634; Cincinnati-Kentucky-Indiana, 1,345; Dayton, 1,091; Columbus, 818; and Canton-Masillon, 527.

States with higher numbers of vehicle thefts with keys left in them include California, 22,580; Texas, 11,003, and Florida, 9,953. The Cleveland-Elyria area was the only Ohio metropolitan statistical area that was in the top 10, with the highest theft rate.

The majority of this type of  theft occurs during the  fall and winter months when drivers leave their vehicles running while warming them up.

“We give citations to people whose cars are stolen due to their keys being left in the vehicles,” Warren Patrolman Benjamin Harrell said. “They not only are making it easier for the bad guys to get away, but they are increasing the insurance rates for others living around here.”

Harrell said he does not know why anyone would leave their keys in their car.

Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees said they have found that not all stolen car reports are as they initially seem.

“Some cars are not truly stolen,” Lees said. “There are times when people owe drug dealers money, so  they give up their cars as payment and then report the cars stolen.”

“There are other times the cars are loaned and are not returned,” he continued.

The NCIB advises drivers to:

• Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys.

• Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.

• Take a picture of the vehicle’s registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.

• Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee.

Nationally, the most popular days for these types of thefts have been Saturdays, 22,081; Mondays, 21,851; and Fridays, 21,652; according to the NICB report.