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Office of Research Services

Serving the NIH Community


Cold Weather Prime Time for “Warm-up Thefts"

The term “Warm-Up Theft” is a widely used term among car thieves to describe the stealing of a car that has been left running and unattended to “warm-up.” During the winter months, many motorists are tempted to leave their vehicle running in an attempt to warm up the interior of the vehicle prior to getting behind the wheel. However, this practice is one that causes two problems. First, leaving a car unattended and running is a violation of the State of Maryland Vehicle Law, Article 21 Section 1101 (a) and second, the practice of leaving your vehicle running and unattended provides for a quick and easy target for car thieves. Following these simple tips will help keep you from being left out in the cold:

  • Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you are away from it, even for “just a minute.”
  • Keep valuables out of sight or in the trunk. Purses, credit cards, and cell phones in plain view only help attract thieves.
  • Always roll up the windows and lock your car, even if it is in your driveway, garage, or in front of your home.
  • Never leave the vehicle title in your car. If stolen, it makes it easier for the thief to dispose of your vehicle. It can also make you a target for identity theft.
  • Be alert when approaching your car, have a plan of action, and have your keys in your hand. Check around, under, and in your vehicle for suspicious individuals. Immediately leave the scene to get help if you have any concerns for your safety.
  • Only park your car in busy, well-lit areas.
    Install a mechanical locking device - commonly called a club, collar, or j-bar - that locks to the steering wheel, column, or brake.
  • If your vehicle has an alarm or other anti-theft device, USE IT.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Research Services, Division of Police, Community Policing Coordinator, Corporal Matthew Catherwood at (301)-496-3020 or