GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Three vehicle thefts in five days is adding to Grand Island's already large number of stolen cars this year.
Grand Island resident Ryan Steffen didn't realize how serious the situation was when his work van was stolen while on a job on Capital Avenue.
He said, "At first, you know, I kind of thought it was a joke that some of my friends were playing on me, but we pretty soon found out that that wasn't true."
Steffen is one of 17 people who have lost their car in 2014 and is also part of another statistic.
"Of the 17, 11 people admitted that they'd left the keys in the vehicle," said Grand Island Crime Prevention Officer Butch Hurst. "Those are just the ones that admitted, it could be higher than that, but those are the ones we know for sure."
However, much like other car thefts Steffen's van was found the next day.
Steffen said, "Pretty lucky that nothing was wrong with the van, but still, the tools were gone, it takes a lot to get all that replaced. Close to $4,000, then to just replace all the locks on your vehicle and everything was well over $600 and change all the locks on your house was over $300, which a lot of that stuff is not covered under insurance."
Hurst added, "If a car is taken and there's tools and things, a lot of the times that stuff is gone when we do seem to find it."
Of the 11 car thefts where the keys were left in the car, six were actually left running.
Hurst said, "They're just leaving the cars running, going inside, and somebody is taking their vehicle."
Steffen said he is amazed with how frequent car thefts are becoming.
"I grew up in Grand Island, it seems to be a lot worse than I've ever seen it and I got a lot of friends that have had stuff stolen and it would be nice to see them catch somebody," said Steffen.
The police are trying to solve these issues, but are asking for the public's help.
Hurst said, "In order for this type of crime to take place somebody has to have the desire to commit the crime, somebody has to have the ability, but they also need the opportunity and we're providing the opportunity for them."
Announcement from Grand Island Police:
From January 1 to February 18, police have investigated 17 stolen vehicle complaints. This does not include vehicles that have been stolen during burglaries.
Police say in order to have a crime it takes three things to make it happen. #1 the criminal has to have the desire to commit a crime. #2 the criminal has to have the ability to commit a crime and #3 there has to be the opportunity for the criminal to commit the crime. Police say nobody has control over #1 or #2 above, but we all have control of #3 which is the opportunity.
Of the 17 vehicle that were stolen the owners admitted to 11 of the 17 vehicles to not only being left unlocked, but the keys were also left in the vehicle. In six of the 17 motor vehicle thefts not only were they left unlocked with the keys left inside, but the vehicles were left running.
Police say it doesn’t matter where or when you leave your vehicle.
The vehicle should be locked up and all valuables placed in the trunk (if possible) or removed from the vehicle.
Even if you have a second set of keys, remember it is a vehicle’s thin window that is keeping the car thief from stealing your car.
If you have a remote start to your vehicle this is different from just leaving a vehicle running as it has safety features that should keep the vehicle from being put into gear.