In a first-of-its-kind analysis of vehicle thefts released today, the National Insurance Crime Bureau(NICB) found a disturbing trend — an increasing number of thefts of vehicles with the keys left inside.
For the years 2012 through 2014, at total of 126,603 vehicles were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle.
While overall vehicle thefts are declining, vehicles stolen with keys left inside are trending in the opposite direction.
As a percentage of overall thefts, 5.4 percent of vehicles stolen (39,345) in 2012 had their keys in them. That figure rose to 6 percent (42,430) in 2013, and in 2014, it increased again to 6.7 percent (44,828).
To show the significance of these numbers, if the 44,828 thefts were removed from 2014's reported estimated total of 659,717*, the thefts would fall to 614,889. The last time national vehicle thefts were that low was 1966.
"Stealing a vehicle is very difficult with today's anti-theft technology and leaving the keys in the vehicle is an open invitation for the opportunistic car thief," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle
"Am I shocked by these numbers? Not one bit. In fact, I'm sure the numbers are probably higher, because we are only able to determine the thefts where the car was recovered with the keys inside, or where someone admitted they left the keys in the car or the ignition. Many times that is not admitted in the police report or the insurance claim. We also see some cases where the owner gives up the car by leaving the keys in it to allow it to be stolen so that an insurance claim payment can help them get out from under a financial bind. Anyone who does that is committing fraud."
The reasons that people leave keys in their vehicles are numerous, but none of them is worth the hassle of having your car stolen. Leaving your vehicle running while you run into a store for a quick cup of coffee or to warm it up before a chilly winter commute might make sense to an individual, but it creates a perfect moment for a car thief who looks for such an opportunity.