Police offer tips to prevent car theft at BTV airport: Don’t leave your keys

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 5:40 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Reports of car thefts are up across Chittenden County, including at the Burlington International Airport. If you’re traveling out of the airport this holiday season, authorities are urging you to take precautions to ensure that your vehicle is still here when you get home.

Holiday travel is in full swing at the airport, but over the last couple of months, a few travelers have come back from vacation to find the car they parked there was gone. The airport says 10 cars have been stolen from the garage over the last couple of months. In each instance, people had left a key in or around their car.

“I cannot urge residents of Burlington enough, do not leave your keys in your car,” said Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad. He says thieves walk around and try multiple doors to see which ones open. According to police, car thefts in Burlington are up 435 percent on a five-year average, with more than 300 this year. South Burlington is also seeing a massive increase, evidenced in video the department provided us of a person checking cars in a parking lot. It’s all part of a nationwide increase in stolen cars.

At the airport, some people drop off their cars, leave the keys, then have a friend or relative pick the car up so it doesn’t rack up charges while they are gone. “Theft is committed by criminals. People who commit crime are the problem, not people who inadvertently leave a key in a car. But all of us can do a little bit better about making certain we are not easy victims of criminals,” Murad said.

Airport director Nic Longo says there are thousands of vehicles coming in and out of the garage each week without issues. In the instances of car thieves, they believe somebody will take a ticket and not enter the garage, dropping off a person who steals the car and can exit without paying the lost ticket fee. Bottom line -- keys should not be left in the car.

“Although we have 24/7 presence here -- we have video camera footage, we have access control systems that go into the parking garage, we have lighting across the parking garage and an upgraded lighting project happening in just a few months -- things happen very very fast and we are not there at every vehicle every single time,” Longo said.

The thefts are also difficult to prosecute, according to a memo from the state’s attorney, because just finding suspects in a stolen car is not enough to prosecute them for stealing it.

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South Burlington sees record number of stolen vehicles