Car Thieves Often Strike on New Year's Day

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

'Tis is the season for... stealing cars?

New Year's Day is one of the holidays 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 nearly 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," driver August Scalia told News4 in 2013, when the holiday took the number one spot for car thefts.

In 2016, over 4,350 cars were reported stolen nationwide on just on Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. (Incidentally, Independence Day came in sixth 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.

Roughly two weeks before Christmas, Steven Hawkins says he was shopping when he dropped his keys. When he returned to the parking lot, he says his car was gone -- along with hundreds of dollars of presents in the trunk.

Frank Scafidi of the NICB has a theory, the Orlando Sentinel reported in 2013: "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 shared 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."

The Christmas spirit does apparently have a calming effect, though -- Christmas Day has the lowest theft rates for a holiday, and in 2016, it had the lowest reported vehicle thefts of any day that year.

And although New Year's Day was the holiday with the third-highest number of reported thefts, Labor Day and Halloween were the holidays with the most reported thefts. The top three days weren't holidays at all: Oct. 17, July 1 and Aug. 1 topped the list.

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.
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