The morning after Christmas, Christine Timm left her sport utility vehicle running in a car dealership on Janesville’s north side while she went inside to pick up her son, Zach.

When the two came outside minutes later, the SUV was gone. It had been stolen in broad daylight.

Zach told The Gazette his reaction was something like, “Wow. Who the hell would do that?”

Police found Christine’s vehicle at Schnucks grocery store. Her purse had been ransacked, and $150 in cash and $200 in gift cards had been stolen. The thief has not yet been identified.

Others aren’t so lucky.

Over the past two months, Janesville police have identified 13 vehicle thefts in the area, according to a news release.

In 10 of the cases, keys were left in the vehicles. In six incidents, including Christine’s, the vehicles were left running, according to the release.

A vehicle is stolen every 46 seconds in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 40 to 50 percent of the thefts are due to driver error, and only half of the vehicles are recovered, according to the release.

The most popular items that attract thieves are the engine, transmission, air bags, radios, GPS systems, iPods, laptops and purses, according to the release.

Janesville police offer these tips to help prevent vehicle thefts:

  • Lock your car. Common sense says many thefts happen to unlocked vehicles. The goal is to make your vehicle less desirable than others, and a locked door is a simple deterrent.
  • Never leave your car running unattended, and always take your keys with you; otherwise, you’re inviting thieves to drive off in your vehicle.
  • Keep windows closed when you park and leave your vehicle. A slender arm or clothes hanger could otherwise reach in and unlocked the door.
  • Don’t store valuables or electronics in plain sight. Take all portable devices with you.
  • Park in a public, well-lighted place at home or when running errands.
  • Vehicles are safer in a garage than in a driveway or parked on the street.

Zach still starts his car and leaves it unattended while it’s warming up in the mornings, but he keeps the doors locked. He uses another key or fob to unlock the doors when he wants to leave, he said.

“Be careful,” he said. “You never know nowadays what people are willing to do.”

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