A total of six cars were stolen on Valentine's Day alone

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  You may have never put the two together, but cold mornings are having a direct effect on car burglaries. While victims are warming up their cars in the driveway, thieves are using the opportunity to steal them.

Here's a breakdown of the shocking numbers: since January 1st there have been 108 cars stolen in Columbus. Forty of those were cars left with the keys inside and the engines running. Monday alone, six cars were taken while their owners were inside their homes.

"Our citizens, in warming their vehicles up in the morning, have a tendency to leave them unlocked with the engine running and this is no more than an invitation for car thieves to take advantage of the opportunity to take their car," explained Major Julius Graham with the Patrol Division of the Columbus Police Department.

Annette Bransford said, "I do it every single day. I've been doing it for a number of years now."

Because it was cold Monday morning, Annette walked outside to turn on the heat in her car. She walked back in the house while waiting for it to warm up. Just minutes later she went back to the driveway and her car was gone.

She said, "We stood there just a couple of minutes saying nothing because we were stunned. We both just said: where's the car? Then I said: the car is gone. I just started screaming the car is gone, the car is gone."

Annette's burgundy 2005 Chevy Equinox had been driven off her property in the amount of time it took her to grab her purse.

But Major Graham says she wasn't the only Valentine's Day victim, "It's not restricted to one particular location, it happens all over the city and within the past several weeks we've seen an increase because of the cold weather."

Even if it means shivering on her way to work, Annette says when it comes to warming up her car, she going to stop. And she leaves this warning to others, "Make sure when you go out in the morning you look at your surroundings, make sure when you start your car you lock it, if you've got to do that, you lock it if you go back in the house. Or, don't start it at all, just wait until you get in it and just run it then."

The obvious advice in this situation is never leave your car unattended with the keys inside, but police say sometimes the obvious answer is the best. If you ever see suspicious behavior around any cars you are urged to call 911.

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