Police are reminding motorists not to leave their keys in the ignition following a number of thefts in Merseyside over recent weeks.
Opportunist thieves are targeting vehicles where owners have left the keys in the car whilst de-icing the windows, opening driveway gates, or in some instances when the driver has popped into a shop.
Last week, a 72-year-old woman was injured after her car was stolen in West Derby. The car was stolen after the keys were left in the ignition whilst she opened the gates to her driveway. The car, a blue Ford Fiesta Zetec registration E060 VFC, has not been recovered. The woman remains in hospital where she is receiving treatment for her injuries.
Other recent incidents, include one in Billinge where a family had their car stolen whilst de-icing the windscreen before driving to the airport. The owner had left the car unattended, with the keys in the ignition, for just a few moments.
In that short while, the family car along with a large amount of spending money and luggage was stolen. The owner of the car has not been able to claim on their insurance and he wants to use his story as a warning to others.
The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, warned: “This was a horrible experience that has left my family without a car, a large amount of money and the belongings we had packed and to top it all off we are unable to claim on our insurance because the keys had been left in the ignition. I’m still in a state of shock as this happened so quickly.
“I would hate for anyone else to go through what we have had to for the sake of saving a few seconds of time. Always lock your car, no matter how quick you think you are going to be. It really is not worth the risk.”
The car has not been recovered and is described as a dark grey Ford Focus Titanium , registration MV09 MFF.
Superintendent Kevin Johnson said: “Just weeks before Christmas, these two families are trying to come to terms with the devastation left behind following the theft of their cars. We dont want other families to experience the same trauma and whilst we are determined to crack down on car crime and catch the culprits, I am keen to raise awareness of this issue especially during the winter months.
“Always lock your car and remove the keys from the ignition, even if you are only leaving the car for a few seconds.
“It is tempting on these cold mornings to leave keys in the car whilst you defrost windows but you may come to regret it. Car theft is often opportunistic and by leaving the car running you are giving thieves the perfect opportunity to take your car or your belongings.
“We have also seen people leaving their keys in the ignition and locking their doors with a separate set of keys. This should also be avoided as all it takes is for someone to break the window and they can ride off in your car.”
Detectives appeal for anyone with information about car crime to call Merseyside Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Merseyside Police has issued the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of car thieves:
• Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running. Offenders watch and wait to see who does this, especially on cold and frosty mornings when heaters are left on to defrost the vehicle
• Always lock and secure your vehicle and check that the windows and sunroof are closed
• Never leave anything on display in your vehicle. It may be worthless to you but a thief will smash a window to get at your ‘old coat’ because they may think it contains cash or valuables
• Mobile phones, coats, bags, sat navs and CDs are all a potential target for thieves – take all valuables with you
• Never leave house or car keys on view near a door or window. Criminals can hook keys through open windows and letterboxes
• Remove keys from door locks before going to bed for the night
• Ensure all doors and windows are locked and secured using good quality locks
• If possible, park cars in a secure garage overnight. Or where it can be seen
• When locking the car make sure that any security devices are activated
• Don’t leave car keys visible from windows, in back doors or where they could be accessible from a letterbox
• If you haven’t got them already, look to install wheel locks and hide the lock nut somewhere safe in the vehicle but not in an obvious place
• Park in well lit areas and consider where you are parking in the day if the car is being left there overnight or you are not returning to the car until dark. The parking place may look rather different during the hours of darkness
• Where possible park in ‘Park Mark’ Safer Parking car parks which have been approved by the Police
• Don’t leave your car engine running unattended – not only is that an offence on a main road it is an open invitation to thieves who wait and watch for this to occur and can be in your car within seconds
• When putting items into the boot of an unattended car this should be done before arrival at the intended parking place so that a thief cannot observe what is being put in the boot
• Where possible put fuel into your car during daylight hours, always lock your vehicle when leaving it and paying for fuel.