Stopping for your morning coffee? Don't leave your car running. Vehicle thefts are up

As vehicle thefts occur throughout Delaware, state police are warning motorists about the risks of leaving their vehicles unattended at gas stations and convenience store parking lots.

“If your car is unattended, idling and unlocked there are thieves that are specifically looking for this type of behavior which is leading to a lot of cars being stolen,” said Senior Cpl. Leonard DeMalto, a spokesman with Delaware State Police. “It’s happening from Wilmington up top all the way down to Fenwick Island at the bottom.”

Leonard said vehicles are being stolen after people make a stop to purchase food items or a morning coffee.

“If you’re leaving it unattended for two, three, five, or six minutes — you’re a sitting duck,” Leonard said. "It's an epidemic and a lot of these [situations] are preventable."

Leonard added that there has been an increase in vehicle thefts during the summer.

“We’ve seen this a lot as parking lots get more and more crowded as people are traveling into Delaware and through Delaware during this time of the year,” Leonard said.

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According to a news release, leaving running vehicles unattended not only increases the chances of them getting stolen, but it also can bring a fine of $25 to $75 for a first offense. Delaware law states that “no person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and effectively setting the brake thereon.”

“We just want to encourage people to turn the car off and lock the car," Leonard said. "It takes an extra 15 seconds to do that and you save yourself 15 weeks of some headaches.”

Have a tip or story ideas? Contact local reporter Cameron Goodnight at, or by calling or texting 302-324-2208. Follow him on Twitter at @CamGoodnight.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware police say vehicle thefts are up. Here's what not to do