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Beware: Car Thieves Target 'Steamers'

Local police and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office advise against leaving your car idling to warm up.

A pre-warmed car is nice, but consider the risk. A few minutes of discomfort driving in a cold car on a winter morning is a lot less painful than a stolen car.

Local police and King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office say leaving an idling car in the driveway to warm up is not a good idea. Thieves even have a nickname for early morning idling cars, which they call “steamers.”

The Redmond Police Department has not received any reports of stolen "steamers" this season, but Jim Bove, the department's community outreach facilitator, says it's best to not give thieves the opportunity.

"I usually send reminders as it gets cooler for people not to leave their cars running while going inside to stay warm," he wrote in an email to Patch. "Thieves see the car steaming with nobody in it so they hop in and take it for a spin. Done. Easy as that."

Det. Robert Onishi of the Renton Police Department issued a similar warning.

The fact that a car is right in front of a house, or even in your driveway, is no real deterrent to a thief,” he said. “An idling car left unattended is an open invitation to an opportunistic thief, who can see the exhaust from blocks down the road.”

A few years ago, a Renton man interrupted such a theft, but was run over and dragged by his own car as the thief drove it away. The victim was found dead at the scene; his killer is still in prison, serving time for his murder.

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Do you leave your car idling to warm up? Tell us in the comments section.

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