DETROIT (WWJ) – As another cold snap settles over metro Detroit, many drivers are tempted to warm up their cars before getting in, becoming easy targets for auto theft and carjacking.

This winter season, Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.) is offering a few simple cold weather safety tips to help drivers protect themselves and their property.

Terri Miller, executive director of H.E.A.T. said it’s really quite simple: Don’t warm up your car. But if you must, there’s a way to do it properly without making your vehicle a target for criminals.

“There are car starters that you can have installed, which leave your vehicle locked as they’re starting remotely, you can actually stay in your vehicle with the doors locked while you’re warming the vehicle up,” Miller told WWJ’s Dave Ramos. “But we recommend just getting in your car and driving away. That way you’re not giving a car thief the opportunity to evaluate whether they want your vehicle or not.”

But that’s not the only time a car thief can strike. Aside from not warming your car, Miller said drivers should always “walk with a purpose” when headed to their vehicles.

“We always tell folks, don’t be distracted,” she said. “Make sure you’re looking around to make sure that there’s no one suspicious. So, don’t be looking at your cellphone, don’t have your earbuds in, and don’t be digging in your pockets or your purse for your keys — make sure you have your keys before you approach your vehicle. And if you do see anyone suspicious, hit that panic button and run the other way.”

Another rule of thumb: Watch what, or who, you leave behind when you shut that door.

“The other thing that we caution people in doing is not leaving valuable items — or people — in the vehicle,” said Miller. “If you come home, the first thing you do is you get your children out of the vehicle, then go back to the vehicle and remove any items that you want to take out of it. That way you are not in a situation where a carjacker approaches and you have a person in the car that you don’t want to be there.”

If you do find yourself in the absolute worst situation and are faced with a carjacker, Miller said its best to just give up your keys and then call 911.

“Your car is worth way less than your life,” she said. “Most of these folks are armed and they’re very dangerous. They want nothing more than to take your vehicle. They don’t really want to take your life but will do it in a heartbeat if they are forced to.”

H.E.A.T. works with law enforcement agencies all over the state to collect information about auto theft-related crime through an anonymous tip line. Any suspicious auto theft activity or carjacking can be reported to H.E.A.T.’s confidential tip line, 1-800-242-HEAT.

H.E.A.T. rewards up to $2,000 for information leading to the issuance of a warrant for a carjacking suspect and up to $10,000 for the arrest of theft ring or chop shop operators.


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