KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's easy to take the simple way out.
On cold winter mornings, sometimes that means starting up your car and going back inside. The extra few minutes in a cozy home may seem inviting. However, it's illegal to leave a running car unattended.
Sgt. Michael Foster of the Kansas City Police Department's Central Patrol Division explained that leaving a running car unattended can create a headache in a hurry.
"If you leave a truck that's probably valued around $70,000 running, you're asking someone to jump in and drive away with it," Foster said.
He said vehicle-related thefts occur most often in the areas of Kansas City where people like to gather for fun.
"We have the highest amount of cars parked than any other part of the city during weekends because we'll have concerts down at the Sprint Center," he said. "We have Power and Light and Westport."
Downtown saw a small spike in car thefts recently. Two weekends ago, Foster reported ten cars stolen. Almost half of those stolen were automobiles with keys left in the ignition.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association knows the problem of auto crimes is nothing new.
"The added number of residential properties that have come into the downtown area in the last few years have added quite a few people and has added to that sense of safety," said Lindsay Tatro, the group's president.
Unfortunately, she learned a lesson in property crime the hard way.
"We had our vehicle broken into and a purse stolen," she said.
Tatro left a purse in her car in plain view. Now she knows how to protect herself. She said the neighborhood association puts on an annual effort to educate others on how not to become a victim. That effort includes posting fliers on cars all over the downtown area with safety tips printed on them.
"Even in a secure parking garage, it's not a good idea to leave items of value in your car," she said.
Foster agreed with Tatro that crimes of this nature are avoidable.
"Park in lighted areas. Don't put your keys in your car. Don't put a spare key in your car anywhere around," Foster said.
He added this tip: Make sure all valuables are out of sight or out of the car completely. Doing so will help deter crime.
Foster said some cars are more prone to being stolen than others. He said Dodge Neons and Honda Accords from the late 1990's are targeted because they are easy to break into and the parts can easily be sold on the black market.
New cars equipped with features like On-Star and key codes are harder to drive away with without getting caught.