Keys Left In Vehicles / Vehicles Left Running and Unattended


    Over the past few months we as New Englanders have experienced some intense cold weather.  Living in a area of the country where private transportation is a vital part of our daily lives, we may have been guilty of leaving our personal vehicles running to warm up while we stay warm in our homes or our places of business.  This creates a great risk of losing what most of us hold as one of our most expensive investments. 

    There have been close to thirty (30) vehicles stolen since November 2003 in the City of Lynn by thieves who grabbed the opportunity to jump in an unoccupied, running motor vehicle.  An opportunistic thief does not plan or “case” a vehicle.  They wait for the owner, you, to leave your vehicle running or run into a store to make a quick purchase.  The thief then jumps in your vehicle and drives off.

    Several Lynn juveniles have been suspected of stealing vehicles in this manner and are being watched by members of the Gang Unit.  They hang out near the various convenience stores and wait until someone leaves a vehicle running.  It only takes seconds.

    The Lynn Police Criminal Investigations Division has been working in conjunction with several insurance companies recently to target insurance fraud and how to address this cold weather theft problem.  A supervisor for MetLife Auto & Home Insurance has indicated and stressed that an owner of a vehicle who is a victim of these opportunistic thieves may not be covered by their insurance in cases where the thief uses the stolen vehicle in the commission of another crime, ie.. armed robbery, or is involved in an accident with your stolen vehicle causing personal injury or even property damage.  The owner is then liable for those damages.

    The insurance companies will not honor a claim if the owner allowed the thief to steal a vehicle by leaving it running with the keys in it.  It is the responsibility of the owners to protect their property.  Any injuries or property damage caused by a car thief involved in an accident while using a stolen vehicle is the responsibility of the vehicle owner.  The owner could even be held civilly liable for  injuries to the thief who stole the vehicle.

    So before you run that quick errand to the convenience store, or don’t want to sit in a cold vehicle while it is warming up, think hard about the financial consequences  that you may face if your car is stolen and ends up in an accident or as a means to commit a crime.

    There is also a motor vehicle violation that the owner or person leaving a vehicle running and unattended can be cited for.  Mass. General Laws Chap. 90 Sec. 13 “Safety Precautions for Proper Operation and Parking of Vehicles and Buses” reads: “…no person having control or charge of a motor vehicle shall allow such vehicle to stand in any way and remain unattended without stopping the engine of said vehicle and removing the key from the locking device and from the vehicle..”  The fine for a first offence is $35.00.  The fines increase for subsequent offenses.

    Members of the Lynn Police have been requested to be vigilant in enforcing this statute and using their discretion by either verbally warning anyone leaving a vehicle running and unattended or by issuing a citation to the offender.

     Enforcement of this violation will help reduce the amount of vehicles stolen in Lynn and also to help protect the general public from unlicensed youthful drivers, or persons not caring about the vehicle their operating, because it does not belong to them.

    There are answers to this problem and here are some preventive tips.  If you can afford an auto starter, it allows you to start your vehicle with a remote control and cannot be driven unless the key is inserted in the ignition.  If you do not have a garage, put a locking device on your steering wheel  ( The Club) while your vehicle is warming up. Above all, use common sense when pulling into the parking lot of a place of business.  Turn your car off and take the keys with you.  Several thieves have been identified and arrested this winter who wait for you to leave your car running and unattended.

Don’t become a statistic and open yourself to civil liability.