May 1, 2020 -- A more than 50-percent uptick in auto thefts in residential areas of Westchester has prompted Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. to remind residents to keep their car doors locked and do not leave the keys inside the vehicle.

According to Scarpino and the Westchester Intelligence Center, thefts of automobiles from January to March 2020 rose 57.4 percent from the same time last year. In April alone, 69 vehicles were reported stolen, a 94.3 percent increase over the same time period last year.

According to Scarpino, a disproportionate number of these stolen vehicles involve owners leaving keys or key fobs in parked, unlocked cars. Even vehicles which are left unlocked but do not have the keys in them are often affected as the suspects rifle through the unlocked cars and steal belongings from them, including electronics, credit cards, cash, wallets, sunglasses and loose change.

Calling the thefts crimes of opportunity, Scarpino said suspects typically target neighborhoods, moving from home to home checking for unlocked car doors. He said residents can keep from becoming victims simply by remembering to remove the keys or key fob from the vehicle and making sure it is locked.

“In most instances, car thieves are not going to break the window if you lock the car,” Scarpino said. “But if you make it easy for them by leaving the doors unlocked and the key fob inside, you are creating an opportunity.”

Scarpino added these tips for discouraging car thieves:

  • Do not leave your key or key fob in the car
  • Remove or hide all valuables
  • Close the car windows
  • Lock the car doors
  • Activate your alarm if you have one
  • Park in a well-lit area at night if possible
  • Do not keep garage door openers in the car if it is not parked in a garage
  • Never leave the car running while unattended

The District Attorney’s Auto Theft Unit and the Westchester County Intelligence Center are assisting local police departments and the National Insurance Crime Bureau in these investigations.

The DA’s Office has launched a social media campaign to combat thefts. Please see our social accounts and share on Facebook and Twitter. #WestchesterSafe