More than a quarter of Arizona’s auto thefts could be prevented if people did not leave their keys in their cars, says the Arizona Republic. Auto thefts have begun to decline in Arizona, but many cars are left running while drivers duck inside convenience stores, dry cleaners, or day care centers. “How long does it take for somebody to walk up, sit in your car and put it in reverse? And they’re gone,” said Phoenix police Lt. Lisa Messina. “You’re leaving it there for somebody to steal. It’s a free ride.” In 2003, nearly 57,000 vehicles were stolen in Arizona, which has one of the highest auto-theft rates in the nation.
Drivers don’t want to shut off air conditioning when they’re just running in to drop off a video or grab a cup of coffee. In the winter, they leave cars warming up in the driveway and dash back inside the house. The most common way to steal cars is by cracking the steering column. Having the keys is a close second. “It’s the accessibility thing,” said Dennis Hiller, 24, who is in prison for auto theft. “Nothing will happen for a long time. Then one day somebody will be at the right place at the right time: ‘Hey, this is already running. I might as well take it.’ ”