Car thefts on the rise in South Philadelphia

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The cold winter months have many people taking the time to warm up their vehicles in the morning, but that is attracting thieves. (WPVI)

The cold winter months have many people taking the time to warm up their vehicles in the morning, but that is attracting thieves.

Last Thursday, a suspect stole an SUV from outside a South Philadelphia laundromat. Inside that SUV was the 19-month-old girl of one of the laundromat's workers.

The mother had run in for just a second to grab the child's toy.

Surveillance video caught the suspect dropping the child off unharmed a few blocks away and taking off again in the stolen vehicle.

Mother and daughter were then reunited.

However, police are warning this type of crime is becoming far too common and all because motorists are making it way too easy.

"People are leaving their keys in the car, sometimes they run in the cleaners or the store or in and out the house," Philadelphia Police Captain Roland Lee said.

Such car thefts, where the keys were left in cars, soared in the month of January in South Philadelphia; it's unusual considering the weather's been relatively warm with no need to keep the engine running.

"We're up to double digit numbers in some places, in some of our districts in South Philadelphia. We know that people feel safe there. We want them to be safe, but at the same time, if you have to go in the house, even for a quick minute, please take your keys with you," Lee said.

Action News found one car belonging to a pizza delivery driver with the keys in the ignition and engine running right on Broad Street Tuesday afternoon.

When he returned, we asked, "Do you ever worry about somebody jumping in there and taking the car?"

His response: "Yes."

Residents weren't at all surprised when we told them car thefts are on the rise in the section of the city they call home.

"They do it all the time. I used to work at Walgreens and they would just leave it parked right in the middle of the parking lot there with the keys in the ignition," Mary Polkus of South Philadelphia said.

"I constantly see that. I see the ones leaving their dogs in the car, leaving their kids in the car, they're running in. And they say 'well, I am only going to be there for five minutes,' but it only takes like 30 seconds to steal a car," Dennis Marcucci of South Philadelphia said.

The affected area reaches from South Street to the Sports Complex and river to river.

Police say this isn't any type of organized ring, just a crime of opportunity. Typically, the vehicles are recovered sometime later, but with damage police say.
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