Lexington County, SC (Paul Kirby) – Within a matter of just a few hours last Sunday afternoon, three vehicles were stolen in three separate communities across Lexington County. Although the communities were very widespread, one was stolen in Batesburg-Leesville, another in Lexington, and yet another in Swansea, the three larcenies had one thing in common. The vehicles’ owners made it very easy for the thieves to take off with cars!
According to Lt. Connie Billings of the Batesburg-Leesville Police Department, a Dodge Charger was taken from outside its owner’s home while it was running Sunday. The woman had cranked the car, run back inside to get something from the home,and when she came back outside, her car was gone. Billings said that any owner who leaves their vehicle running while parked is actually breaking the law themselves. She said that SC Code SECTION 56-5-2570 covers the proper parking of an unattended motor vehicle. That state law says, “No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.” This law is not just to ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll away when it’s parked, but also that someone doesn’t drive away with it while its owner’s attention is elsewhere.
Later Sunday afternoon, a black Ford Mustang was stolen from behind the Circle-K on West Main Street in Lexington. Corporal Cameron Mortenson said that the driver of that car left it running outside the store while he ran inside. He estimated he was gone about five minutes. Here too, the thieves had little trouble taking a car that was running. A driver slipped behind the wheel and just drove off. Police officers flooded the area quickly and began circulating. They also notified other surrounding agencies to be on the lookout for the stolen car, but as of Sunday evening, it still had not been found.
A car taken from a home in Swansea was only slightly different. It wasn’t running, but the keys were in the ignition. According to its owner, almost everything she owned was in that car. Swansea Police Chief Clif Hayes said they did find that car a short distance away later that evening. Several suspects are being questioned and they are reviewing video footage from area businesses to see if they can positively identify the thieves who drove off in the car. If so, he’s hopeful they will be able to make a case.
All of these crimes have one common thread, they are crimes of convenience. In general, thieves are lazy. After all, that’s why they steal. The simple act of cutting your car off and taking the keys out before locking the doors is often enough to deter them. Once they see you’ve done this, they move on to easier pickings. Remember that all the cars stolen Sunday were taken in broad daylight. Working to break into a car in a public place would be highly unlikely and unusual.
Each of these cases took quite a bit of manhours from the Police Department that worked the case. At least one officer had to take the report, spread the word, and enter the information into a national database. Others spent time and resources driving around searching in case the car was still in the area. In Lexington, they even had officers station themselves at the main thoroughfares leaving the town in an effort to spot the car making its getaway. All these resources could have been used otherwise if people just had put a bit more thought into how they left their cars when they parked them.
As it gets hotter, it may get more tempting for you to leave you car running and the air-conditioner blasting while you run in a store, but is it really worth it? Think of standing in the sun with your mouth agape while seeing that empty spot where your car used to sit! Shut if off, take the keys, and lock it up. In the long run, it’s just not worth it to leave it otherwise.