HILLSIDE, N.J. (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — It only takes a few seconds – start the car, go back inside, and before you know it, you’re car is gone.
A fast-moving gang of thieves pulled off the simple heist four times Friday morning, and all within a matter of minutes. Now, victims are putting out the warning about the idling danger.
It’s a common practice in cold weather – turning the car on to warm it up, often leaving it briefly unattended with the keys inside.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Kathleen Maloney reports
Shelton Gibbs was warming up his car at 7 a.m. Friday, while taking out the trash when it happened to him.
“Then I went back into the house to get the garbage and, that quick, they took off,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs’ car was one of four taken in Hillside in the span of just 25 minutes. Another was stolen from the driveway of a home on Winans Avenue.
“Nobody, no police, no patrols, but if you go to Maplewood or somewhere else, they make sure it doesn’t happen,” resident Sharon Moore said.
“Under these circumstances, I guess we’re going to have to be a little bit more careful,” resident Vernon Underwood said. “We kind of take things for granted.”
In two of the car thefts, the victims saw it happening and ran after the thief – not just for the car, but for their house keys inside.
“Somebody just hopped in and drove away,” resident Shellyce Gibbs said. “Just got in the car and drove off.”
Gibbs said it was her father’s car. It was found hours later, but the ignition had to be re-keyed.
“It’s sad because it feels like a violation. I just feel like we’ve been violated,” she said.
Insurance agents like Jesse Branson said long car warm-ups are unnecessary.
“Today’s cars, because they are modern and have new technology in them, you only need the car running a few minutes,” Branson said.
Hillside police said they’re actively tracking the thefts, but they also have a word of advice for residents.
“Leaving your car idling in this part is a little…discouraged,” Hillside Police Lt. Louis Ruffino said.
Has this happened to you? Tell us about it in the comments section below!