Crime, Police/Fire

Maryland State Police officials warn motorists of dangers of leaving vehicles running unattended

BALTIMORE, MD—As temperatures begin to fall, police say opportunities for vehicle thefts increase, as a case from over the weekend in Harford County highlights.

At just before 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, a state trooper with the Maryland State Police attempted to conduct a traffic stop on westbound Route 22 at Sablewood Road in Bel Air for a 2014 Hyundai Elantra that had been reported stolen in Pennsylvania. After the trooper activated his emergency lights, all four occupants of the Hyundai bailed out of the vehicle before fleeing southbound on Redfield Road.

Shortly thereafter, authorities received a call for another stolen vehicle on the 900 block of Pentwood Court in Bel Air. This theft occurred just a few blocks from the bailout on Sablewood Road. In the second case, the victim told investigators that he had walked outside to start up his 1997 silver Honda Civic to allow it to warm up that morning. The victim said that when he returned to his vehicle, it was gone.

According to the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council, a car is stolen every 49 minutes in Maryland and every 39 seconds in the United States. Overall, 10,683 vehicles were stolen in Maryland in 2020, down from 11,255 in 2019. Of those, 50 percent of vehicles stolen in Maryland had keys inside the vehicle and 60 percent of the vehicles stolen were left unlocked.

Maryland State Police also want to remind motorists that leaving a vehicle running unattended not only increases the chances of it getting stolen, but it’s also illegal. According to state law, police can issue a ticket with a $70 fine and one point against your driving record for such a violation. Also, if the vehicle slips out of gear and causes an accident, police may issue a ticket with a $110 fine and three points against the owner’s driving record.

Residents should take the following steps to reduce the chance of theft:

  • Close and lock all windows and doors when parking.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Do not leave the area while a vehicle is running.
  • Do not leave keys/key fobs inside the vehicle.
  • Always stow away valuables.

The Maryland General Assembly created the Vehicle Theft Prevention Council in 1994 as a statewide planning and dedicated funding resource. The Council embraces a statewide strategy directed at public awareness, vehicle theft by juveniles, law enforcement and prosecution through a grant award process. Efforts by the Vehicle Theft Prevention Council have led to a more than 72 percent reduction of vehicle thefts in Maryland over the past 27 years.

Additional information on vehicle thefts in Maryland is available online here and in the graphic below.

Maryland Auto Theft Prevention Tips

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