RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A recent increase of stolen cars in Raleigh has police warning people not to leave their keys in their cars.
In January, there were 99 reported car thefts in Raleigh. In the previous four months, there was an average of 60 cars stolen a month.
Mary Katherine Jones recently received a call from police that her stolen car had been found. On January 11th, thieves stole the car even though it was locked and she had both spare keys.
She says she has no idea how the thieves were able to steal the car from the parking lot of her Southeast Raleigh townhome complex, but noticed wires pulled from under the steering wheel, leading her to speculate it was hot-wired.
“It can happen to anybody, I just didn’t think it could happen to me,” said Jones. “This is only what you hear about on TV or on a Dateline episode. I thought Keith Morrison was going to pop out and say ‘Gotcha.’”
Police are still looking for the thieves, but they found Jones’ car two weeks after she reported it stolen. It was found in the parking lot of an apartment complex with significant damage. The car had expletives carved into the hood and side panels and the windshield and sun roof were shattered.
“Then when I opened up the vehicle where my son’s car-seat is supposed to be, there was drug paraphernalia, there was used condoms, there was clothing, there was just some very vile things,” said Jones.
Police say it’s pretty rare for thieves to steal a locked car. Most thefts occur when the car is unlocked and the keys are left somewhere inside. This was the case for many of the recent reported car thefts, a Raleigh spokesperson said.
Garner police tell WNCN they can see a spike during the winter months. A lot of cars are stolen when they’re left running to warm up in cold weather, police say.
“When it comes to car thefts, criminals are very opportunistic,” said Captain Joe Binns of the Garner Police Department. “If the car is unlocked, there are a couple places they’re going to check and boom they have your keys, they have your car, and they have whatever valuables you left in it.”
When the thieves stole Jones’ car, they also took a stroller, a golf bag and other personal items. The only item they’ve been able to recover is the golf bag, which was found abandoned in a field in Clayton.
Luckily for Jones, she was able to recover her car, but not after the criminals vandalized the car and drove 1,000 miles in a 2-week period.
“It’s just sad because these individuals are clearly smart. I don’t know how to get into a locked car, I even lock myself out of the vehicle sometimes. If they’re able to do something so smart, they need to be putting it to good use,” said Jones.