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Never leave your car running when unattended, even for a minute, police advise. But if you must, be sure to lock it.

The arrival of cold weather and a rash of stolen cars has police reminding people to not leave cars unattended with the engine running or the keys inside.

Omaha police reported 324 stolen vehicles in November. Of those, 89 cars were either running or had their keys in the vehicle, according to police.

Since the start of December, the Lincoln Police Department has investigated 13 reports of stolen vehicles, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“We generally see an uptick of vehicles getting stolen,” said Officer Phil Anson, spokesman for the Omaha Police Department. “It happens a lot more in the winter.”

Anson said thieves drive through neighborhoods looking for exhaust coming out of an empty car. “It’s just a matter of seconds, and you won’t even know it happened,” he said.

If you need to warm up your car in the morning, do it with the doors locked. That’s enough to deter most people, he said.

The Lincoln department provided examples from the past few days of citizens whose cars were stolen while warming up “for only five minutes.”

On Tuesday at 9 a.m., a 2008 Pontiac G6 was stolen while warming up in the 2800 block of S Street in Lincoln. On Saturday, a 2006 Nissan Pathfinder was stolen about 10 a.m. while it was warming up in the 3000 block of Q Street.

Omaha police provided these tips to keep from having your vehicle stolen:

  • Never leave your keys in your vehicle.
  • Never leave your car running when unattended, even for a minute.
  • Common places vehicles are stolen include convenience stores, gas stations and day care centers. Many vehicles are also stolen on cold mornings when the owner leaves the vehicle running to warm up.
  • Always lock vehicle doors.
  • Never hide a second set of keys inside your vehicle (thieves know all of the hiding places).
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Completely close car windows when parked.
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain view.
  • If you have a garage, use it. Once the car’s inside , lock it and the garage.
  • If you don’t have a garage, park as close to your house as legally possible (i.e., not on the lawn).
  • Don’t leave the vehicle title inside the vehicle, because that makes it easy for the thief to resell the vehicle.
  • Use a visible locking device for the steering wheel or an audible alarm system.

World-Herald staff writer Kevin Cole contributed to this report.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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