'Tis is the season for... stealing cars?
New Year's Day is the holiday when your vehicle is most likely to be stolen, and New Year's Eve isn't far behind, according to new data that may make you rethink whether you're leaving your car vulnerable to thieves.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) crunched the numbers and said that Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 make up about 20 percent of all holiday auto thefts each year.
"I would not have picked New Year's Day -- the Fourth of July, maybe, or something," said driver August Scalia.
In 2012, nearly 4,400 cars were reported stolen nationwide on just on Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. (Incidentally, Independence Day came in seventh for holidays.)
"People have bad intentions this time of year and the rest of the year, so you just have to be careful," said driver Tony Jackson, who added that he keeps aware of what he leaves in his car and where he parks.
Frank Scafidi of the NICB has a theory, the Orlando Sentinel reported: "People get drunk on New Year’s and that makes many otherwise ordinary, responsible adults act like mindless morons and do things they might not do when sober."
Lucy Caldwell with Fairfax County Police has another reason for car thefts in the colder months.
"It's the time of year when it is very cold outside, and a thief may be looking for a car that's being warmed up," Caldwell said. "They jump in the vehicle and then they take off."
In fact, it happened Wednesday morning in the 6200 block of Bren Mar Drive in Alexandria. A woman started her car around 8 a.m. and went back inside while it warmed up. Thieves apparently noticed, and took the car. Four suspects were taken into custody in that case.
"Unfortunately that's one of the number one reasons people are able to get away with car theft," Caldwell said. "People leave their keys in the car."
The Christmas spirit does apparently have a calming effect, though -- Christmas Day has the lowest theft rates for a holiday, and in 2012, it had the lowest reported vehicle thefts of any day that year.
And although New Year's Day was the holiday with the most reported thefts, there were 64 other days in 2012 with more thefts, said the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The top three, in case you're wildly curious, aren't in the winter at all: June 1, July 23 and Aug. 1.
Of course, the technology is getting better on cars to protect vehicles, but police says criminals are also adapting and figuring out ways around that technology.
Fairfax County Police released the following tips Thursday to keep your car safe:
- Never leave your keys in your vehicle.
- Never leave your car running unattended.
- Never leave valuables visible in your vehicle.
- Consider installing anti-theft technologies and devices.
- Park in well-lit areas when possible.
- If your car is stolen, report it to police immediately.