The number of car thefts in Medford nearly doubled last month compared to December 2012.
Medford police reported 27 vehicles were stolen while they were parked in driveways or on the street. Some were taken while they were left running to warm up.
"Honestly we had a very cold December, and a lot of people were warming vehicles up in their driveway, and that's how they're being stolen," said Lt. Mike Budreau of Medford police.
In December 2012, there were 14 reported car thefts. October and November 2013 saw 16 and 15 incidents, respectively.
"Usually the vehicles are recovered several days or weeks later," Budreau said, adding the thieves typically use the cars for transportation instead of a quick profit for scrapped parts. "We don't think this is an organized chop-shop kind of thing."
The cases remain under investigation, and no suspects have been identified. Car thefts typically see a slight increase during the winter months, but 2013's spike leads investigators to believe the same people are behind most of the reported cases.
"It's definitely something unique about this year," Budreau said. "It's probably going to be the work of one or two individuals committing the cases."
Investigators remind vehicle owners to keep their cars locked and secured during the night and to keep the keys indoors. Motorists also should not allow their vehicles to idle unattended, as it is just an invitation to thieves.
"I think it's just a grim reminder," Budreau said. "It's just a poor practice, and it's a good way to lose your car."
— Ryan Pfeil