FOX13 Investigates: Auto thefts on the rise in Shelby County

By: Greg Coy

Updated:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Every time a car is stolen in the Memphis and Shelby County, law enforcement invests valuable time to catch the thief and recover the vehicle.

Car theft remains a big problem in the Mid-South, according to the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. 

The problem is driven by owners getting out the car but leaving the keys in the ignition and the engine idling.

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It is an invitation for thieves to steal to the vehicle.

It happened to Marius Hampton.  He drove up to a convenience store, went inside, and in a hurry made a dangerous mistake. 

"I left the car running because I usually keep the keypad," Hampton told FOX13.

The surveillance video from the store shows what happens next. Hampton goes inside the store, two teenagers jump into his car and drive off.

"I started running out the door and they were gone.

I chased him for a little bit but I didn't want to get hit in traffic," said Hampton as he sat in a rental car. “I am just glad my little girl was not in here."

Hampton followed a bad habit common among drivers nationwide. 

More and more drivers leaving their car running while they go run an errand turning their car into a magnet for thieves. 

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than 147,000 vehicles thefts with keys reported stolen in the U-S between January 2013 and December 2015. California had the highest number of these kind of thefts with over 22,500. 

Tennessee ranked 21 in the nation with more than 1,300.     

The Memphis Police Department does not track car theft when the keys are left inside but a source told FOX13 it could be more than 20-percent of all vehicles stolen.

"In Memphis and Shelby county, it's on the uptick." said Clinton Miller, a retired Shelby County Deputy who now teaches law enforcement.

Clinton Miller reviewed the data from the NICB which documents this type of auto theft spikes in the fall through the winter. 

Even in the summer months, FOX13 discovered victims make themselves most vulnerable on either Monday when they rush to work or Saturday when in haste to finish errands.

"Most people don't understand that they are contributing to crime in directly. By doing that, it's hurting the community and it's taking hours away from police officers can actually be enforcing laws."

For Marius Hampton some good news to after a frightening situation. 

FOX13 showed him the latest copy of the Memphis Police report that shows officers recovered his car and arrested two suspects. This type of crime won't happen to him again.

"Don't leave it running. You know what I mean. Don't leave it running just don't leave it running," said Hampton he started to make calls to get his car back.

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