MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When it’s cold outside, you can find cars and minivans warming up without the driver inside of them.

And police say thieves are out looking them.

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Minneapolis Police tell WCCO they’ve seen a spike in car thefts in southeast Minneapolis’ Third Precinct.

Officers say 17 cars were stolen between Dec. 10 and Dec. 18 in that part of the city.

Minneapolis Police Spokesman John Elder says 11 of these cars were left unattended in order to warm up.

“If you do see it happen, what are you going to do?” Elder said. “By the time you get out to your car, they’re gone.”

Because of the uptick in car thefts, police officers are now spending more time patrolling neighborhood streets instead of major routes.

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“We’re using undercover or decoy cars, bait cars … a couple of them, and we’re placing those out for people to steal,” he said.

Police say remote starters are an excellent option.

“To steal a car with a remote starter, you need the keys. And if you put your foot on the brake to shift in to gear, it’s gonna kill the engine,” he said. “So it will keep people from being able to steal the car.”

Adding insult to injury, there’s a city ordinance in Minneapolis that applies to vehicles on public streets and in alleys. You can get a $34 ticket for leaving your car idling with the keys in the ignition, but it’s up to the officer on the scene as to whether or not you’re actually ticketed.

Elder says criminals are also looking for valuables left inside vehicles in plain sight.

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“Thieves are walking by, looking in car windows, and it takes nothing to break a car window and steal whatever is in there,” he said.