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Cars left running and unattended reported stolen, police issue drivers citations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Thieves are swiping cars left running with keys in the ignition.

At least six people told Memphis police that's what happened to them this weekend.

Eric Dayse is one of those people.

"Left the car running and ran inside," said Dayse.

He stopped at the gas station at Riverdale and East Shelby Sunday around midnight.

He said went into the store and bought some water and chips. He was gone for about a minute, but when he walked outside, his car was gone.

"Did I park right here? Did park somewhere else?" he said.

Confused, he asked a man at another pump what happened.

"He said, 'I thought they knew you!' I said, 'Well, you know, no. What did they look like?'" said Dayse. "He said, 'They just pulled up, and two young fellas pulled off.'"

Eventually, police got to the scene.

While they searched for the crook, they also slapped Dayse with a citation for violating a city ordinance: leaving a car running and unattended.

"That was crazier than my car getting stolen," he said.

Add Dayse to the list of 154 people MPD said were issued the same citation so far this year.

Nearly three times the amount compared to last year and the year before.

"That wasn't something we were doing. This is a new effort to bring attention to individuals to stop doing it," said MPD Col. Marcus Worthy.

Police said an unattended running vehicle fuels crime, can danger bystanders and takes resources off the street, especially at a time MPD is already understaffed.

Police said the citation starts at a $62 fine, and there can be criminal charges.

Also, if a thief takes your unattended, running car and crashes it, you may be liable for the damage.

Just this weekend, MPD responded to at least six car thefts where vehicles were left running and unattended in Hickory Hill, downtown and the U of M area.

"It's getting kind of ridiculous because we are seeing more cars being stolen in the summer time than the winter time," said Worthy. "I'm pretty sure someone right now has left their car running and their air blowing, and someone got into their vehicle and drove off with it."

As for Dayse, he learned to not leave his car running and unattended but still plans on fighting the citation.

"It doesn't make any sense whatsoever," said Dayse.

In the meantime, he is asking you to call police if you see his car: a 2006 silver Volvo S80 with Tennessee plates U36-68M.