Rockford law enforcement says drivers are helping car thieves - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford law enforcement says drivers are helping car thieves

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

The number one place to get your car stolen, outside out of Chicago, is Rockford. It's a big problem not just for drivers, but police, because a lot of times those vehicle are taken for more than joy rides.

You might be thinking it's not big deal to leave your car running to get warm on a cold morning or to pop into a gas station, but that's not always the case.

In a security video shown by the Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force, a man leaves his SUV running in front of a Rockford convenience store. He walks inside where he can still see his car, but 60 seconds later, a man who looks like he is going to go into the store instead walks up to the running car, hops in, and drives off. The whole thing happened in less than two minutes. The task force says once the car is gone, you might never see it again.

"Vehicles are being stolen and obliviously they are being chopped up and sold out for parts. Sometimes we see them stolen and being exported to foreign countries," says Sergeant Mark Galindo, Illinois State Police and Northern Illinois Auto Theft Task Force director.

The number one stolen car in the country is the Dodge Caravan. But in the Rockford area, it's all about convenience. Last year, 45-percent of cars taken were with the owner's keys and 22-percent of those cars were running, but no one was inside.

"Oftentimes what we are seeing here in the Winnebago County are vehicles that are being stolen and used in other crimes. Violent crimes, robberies, homicides, drug related crimes," says Galindo.

The high rate of stolen cars in the Rockford area does not just mean more crime. It also hits your wallet.

"Obviously your auto insurance is going to go up. The more vehicle theft there is in the area the higher your auto theft insurance is going to be," says Galindo.

The auto theft task force met with area police agencies and business leaders to talk about the problem. It is currently working on a public service campaign to remind drivers to lock up their vehicles and roll up the windows when it gets nice out. Plus, keep your keys with you at all times.

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