By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Of all the cars zipping around the city each day, roughly a baker’s dozen aren’t being driven by their lawful owners.

“We’re having on average 13 cars stolen a day,” said John Elder, public information officer with the Minneapolis Police Departments.

Elder said the average should be around seven per day. In the first three weeks of 2020, police said 262 cars have been stolen. The five-year average during that same time span is 171.

An all-too common mistake is driving the spike in thefts. About 73 percent involved the car being left running while unattended. During the same time span last year, it was only 42 percent.

Warming your car on a cold morning isn’t the only reason vehicles are being taken with ease. “Food delivery people and others out of their cars for what they determine or plan to be just a moment,” Elder said.

The problem is city wide, but a high concentration of thefts happened just southeast of downtown in the Ventura Village neighborhood where Candy McDonald lives.

“I’m not surprised because you see tons of cars running you know every day I leave for work 00:00:23 there’s a bunch of cars running out here,” she said. Although her car hasn’t been stolen, she did mention her car’s catalytic converter was taken recently.

McDonald lives across the street from Trinity First Lutheran School — where earlier this month a father quickly went inside while his two kids remained in the running car.

It was promptly stolen but luckily found ditched a short distance away with the kids safely inside.

“I can’t think of a greater nightmare for a parent,” Elder said. The cars don’t have to running to be targeted either. “People are walking around and pulling on car doors. If they open, the (key) fob’s inside,” he said.

With so many of these crimes being preventable police say they could lean on the city’s open ignition ordinance to teach drivers a hard lesson.

“People may be cited for leaving their cars running with a key or a fob in the vehicle while unattended,” Elder said.

If a car has a remote starter with an anti-theft mechanism the driver would be cited under the ordinance.

Police also said to expect to see billboards and hear spots on the radio reminding drivers to not leave their cars running and unattended in an effort to raise awareness.

Jeff Wagner