Arlington, VA

Arlington police have a public service announcement that’s right up there with “don’t hit the car in front of you” — don’t leave your keys in your car.

Just over two thirds of the 31 vehicle reported stolen in Arlington this month have either been left running unattended (9) or unlocked with keys inside (12), according to ACPD.

Thieves, the police department says, have learned that Arlington is fertile ground for easy crimes of opportunity. The victims are often those who can least afford the loss: food delivery drivers.

“Reported incidents indicate multiple suspects will travel together as they search the area for cars left running unattended,” ACPD said in a press release today. “When they observe an unattended vehicle, the suspects pull their vehicle alongside it, one individual exits the suspect car, immediately enters and flees the scene in the victim’s vehicle. The act of stealing the vehicle takes only seconds. The victims are often food delivery drivers who return from their delivery to find their vehicle has been stolen.”

Criminals also prowl the county during early morning hours, looking for cars that have been left unlocked with keys inside, police say. Even when keys are not found, sometimes other items are taken, as happened in the East Falls Church neighborhood this morning.

More from ACPD:

LARCENY FROM AUTO/VEHICLE TAMPERING (series), 2020-07280029/07280031, 1800 block of N. Van Buren Street/1800 block of N. Tuckahoe Street. At approximately 4:00 a.m. on July 28, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering with auto. Upon arrival, officers observed a suspect lying in the roadway. As they made contact with the suspect, he fled on foot into Falls Church. A perimeter was established and a search of the area returned with negative results. The investigation determined the suspect allegedly entered approximately seven unlocked vehicles, rummaged through their contents and stole items of value. He is described as a Hispanic male in his teens, approximately 5’7″, 145 lbs., with a facial tattoo. The investigation is ongoing.

Auto crimes are rising in Arlington and are not just confined to non-violent thefts. Five carjackings have been reported since June 22.

The full ACPD press release is below.

Motor vehicle thefts are on the rise as thieves target cars left running unattended and those parked with keys left inside. Of the 31 vehicles reported stolen in the month of July, nine were running unattended and 12 were unlocked with keys left inside. The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information on how these crimes occur and simple ways motorists can help reduce thefts and protect their property.

Method of Theft

Reported incidents indicate multiple suspects will travel together as they search the area for cars left running unattended. When they observe an unattended vehicle, the suspects pull their vehicle alongside it, one individual exits the suspect car, immediately enters and flees the scene in the victim’s vehicle. The act of stealing the vehicle takes only seconds. The victims are often food delivery drivers who return from their delivery to find their vehicle has been stolen.

Police have received similar reports of multiple suspects exiting a vehicle and trying the handles of parked vehicles. The suspects enter vehicles that are found to be unlocked with the goal of stealing those with keys left inside. These incidents typically occur during overnight hours and the suspect vehicle is often driven slowly near the suspects to allow an easy getaway.

Help Prevent Auto Theft with these Crime Prevention Tips

Motor vehicle thefts are often crimes of opportunity with thieves taking advantage of perceived easy targets. The Arlington County Police Department recommends following the below safety tips to keep your vehicles and property safe.

  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially in garages, parking lots, and gas stations.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors when you park. Double click the lock button on the key fob to receive a confirmation beep/chirp or pull on the door handle to verify it’s locked.
  • Park in well-lit areas and activate exterior lights at your home.
  • Never leave the area while your vehicle is running – even for a short duration of time. Doing so is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Do not leave your keys, key fobs, or valet keys in your vehicle. This includes keys to a secondary vehicle.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is turned OFF when leaving it unattended. Vehicles with keyless ignition systems can be driven for extended periods of time even if the key fob is not inside the car. Be sure to read your owner’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with how to operate your vehicle’s keyless ignition system properly.
  • Keep information, such as the make, model, model year, license plate and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) easily accessible in the event your vehicle is stolen.

Report Suspicious Activity to Police for Investigation

Arlington County Police officers proactively patrol Arlington’s neighborhoods to identify and prevent criminal activity. The department’s efforts are enhanced by the active involvement of members of the public. When the public calls to report suspicious activity, they aid not only the police, but help make their neighborhoods a safer place to live and work.

Suspicious activity is an occurrence that is out of place in your neighborhood. Common suspicious activity factors in auto crimes include observing individual(s) looking into or ducking around cars, individual(s) walking down the street and trying multiple vehicle door handles and vehicles with open doors with the interior dome lights on and individual(s).

Factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious. The public should report only suspicious behavior and situations rather than beliefs, thoughts, ideas or expressions.

Residents observing suspicious activity should contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222. If you see a suspect in your vehicle, do not approach them and dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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