Don’t trust the fob: Auto thefts rise as drivers leave cars running

 In some circles on Twitter, they’d be called a “Goofy.” But you can just call them carless, if you’d like. They’re drivers who, for one reason or another, leave their vehicles running when they aren’t behind the wheel.

Motor vehicle thefts are up 5% this year in Chicago, bucking the trend of wider crime reductions that the city has enjoyed during the COVID era. And idling cars are a big factor in the spike.

Monday evening, two men hopped into a woman’s idling Jeep as she helped her daughter move into a new apartment near Wrightwood and Burling in Lincoln Park. The mom tried to reach into the SUV to foil the theft, but that didn’t work. Her Jeep was last seen speeding down the alley with its rear hatch open.

The offenders, according to witnesses, were two Black males with short hair in their mid-teens who stand about 5’10” and weigh about 170 pounds. One wore a green Western Kentucky University hoodie. The other wore a white hoodie.

Less than 12 hours earlier, a Wicker Park woman’s Lexus was stolen when she left it running while loaded boxes into a dumpster just feet away. That incident was captured by surveillance camera:

One common misconception among car owners is that their vehicle can’t travel very far if they are in possession of their key fob. So, they cheerily leave the car running with the expectation that – even if someone does try to take it – the vehicle won’t get very far since they have the starter.

Unfortunately, as dozens of YouTube videos demonstrate, that is not the case. One adventurous demonstrator even threw the car’s key fob out of the vehicle while driving.

Last week, Chicago police warned that more than a dozen cars were stolen while left idling in the West Loop neighborhood in September alone. A similar crime wave hit Lakeview in May as a crew of “very young” car thieves stole dozens of cars that were left running outside restaurants and stores.

The Lakeview pattern came to an abrupt end on Memorial Day after woman was struck and killed by an SUV that had been stolen a few hours earlier on the 1100 block of West Belmont.

Before the pedestrian was killed, the owner of the vehicle told a neighborhood watch group on Facebook that she left the car running while she ran into a convenience store “for no more than 30 seconds.”

No arrests have been made in the hit-and-run or the auto theft sprees.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is