Police warn citizens to be vigilant as car break-ins, auto-thefts are on the rise

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Car break-ins and auto-thefts are already on the rise this year, according to the Memphis Police Department.

MPD says car break-ins are up 30 percent this month compared to this time in 2017. There's already been 571 reports.

"There's a lot of people running around," said driver John Henry. "You've got to be alert in all of these parking lots."

Officers say places like Hickory Hill, East Memphis, and Downtown are getting hit the hardest with break-ins.

"It's definitely a crime of opportunity," said Colonel Joe Oakley with the Memphis Police Department.

Colonel Oakley says auto-thefts have increased this year as well. There have been 495 reports in the past month, which is a 56 percent increase from this time last year.

Police say they see auto-thefts take place all over the city.

A huge problem is drivers leaving their vehicles running and unattended.

"We have citizens that are leaving their cars unattended at convenience stores, like at gas pumps, when they run in and pay," said Colonel Oakley.

He says the cold weather has also contributed to people leaving their cars running in their driveway to warm up.

"Keep in mind, when these cars are stolen, they are used in other crimes sometimes, like robberies, burglaries, other auto-thefts and car break-ins," said Colonel Oakley.

Police say this is one of the reasons they're cracking down on handing out citations to drivers who leave their cars running unattended.

Drivers who leave children unattended in a running car could be charged with child endangerment.