Delivery cars left idling easy target for thieves in DC

There’s a spike in the number of stolen cars in D.C.

Almost 2,200 cars have been stolen so far this year — a 44% increase over the same period last year.

Many of these cars were easy pickings for thieves because the cars, being used by delivery drivers, were left unoccupied and unlocked, with the engines running or the key or key fob inside.

“We’re seeing a sharp increase in these delivery vehicles that are being jumped into, as delivery drivers are leaving them idling and unattended,” said D.C. police First District Cmdr. Morgan Kane. “We have a significant increase in stolen automobiles citywide.”

The problem has been especially acute in neighborhoods with high concentrations of restaurants and carry-outs, including the 14th Street corridor, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Mt. Vernon Triangle, Navy Yard and Barracks Row.

Kane said of 357 vehicles stolen in the past 30 days, 135 had keys left inside, and another 125 had been left idling and unattended. Police have recovered 185 of those stolen vehicles. So far this year, police have made 515 arrests, 64 in the past 30 days, in connection with the stolen cars.

While police believe some of the vehicles were stolen by juveniles for joy rides, others have been targeted by individuals intent on committing violence.

“Although we recover a significant amount of vehicles … we are still seeing and finding that these vehicles are being used in violent crimes,” said Kane, pointing out that some of the stolen cars were later used in shootings and robberies.

Police began noticing the uptick of stolen delivery vehicles in the spring, when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order was in its early stages, and restaurant and grocery store deliveries became more commonplace.

Police have contacted the delivery companies, asking them to push out messages to the cell phones of delivery workers, “To remind them to turn your vehicle off; take your key or your key fob with you; roll your windows up; don’t leave your car running,” Kane said.

With winter approaching, police said the simple advice can be extended to all drivers.

“As the weather is changing and folks will want to warm their cars up, please do not leave it running unattended,” Kane said.

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