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Billings Police to create new task force due to up tick in car thefts

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

Have you noticed an uptick in posts about car theft on Facebook?

Or have you seen people waiting for you to start your car and leave it running?

We see it every year, an increase in car thefts during the colder months.

It's nice to come out to a warm car but sometimes, that car is gone.

Billings Police Department said the most important thing is to avoid making yourself an easy target.

Police say the increase in car thefts during winter months doesn't surprise them.

Everyone loves starting the day with a warm car but technically it's illegal to leave your car running unattended.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said: "The original intent of the law, its been on the books for many years, was to make sure that running vehicles didn't pop out of gear and run into somebody's property."

While the police understand the convenience they say to make sure you're watching your car.

They also suggest making sure your car is locked while heating up.

One thing you don't want to do is leave your keys in the ignition while you're inside. 

Jarrett Wanner of Jarrett Stereos said one tip he always suggests is to use a remote starter.

Another cheaper option is a GPS tracker that can be installed to let you know your car's location if it is stolen.

Wanner also said, " Ultimately you want to sit in your car while its warming up. I know that defeats the purpose but that's the best secure way if you're going to go without a remote start or GPS tracker."

Not every car is stolen while warming up though, Kristina Hoerner, recently watched in a panic as someone tried to steal her car from her house.

Hoerner said, "You're very shooken up there's somebody trying to steal your car...that's your livelihood."

She said she noticed an older car with temporary tags sitting outside for hours beforehand but didn't call it in.

When she confronted the thieves they told her they had orders from the city to tow her car.

That was a lie and the thieves ran off.

Hoerner urges people to help each other, " anything a civilian can do to help another civilian. Any eyes, ears, if you have a home security definitely check out your home security system."

Billings Police Chief St. John said the police force is starting a new street unit on January 1st that will focus on car thefts, vandalism, and burglaries.

This new street unit is in addition to the beat cops and will add some much needed patrolling to the streets of Billings.

Chief St. John said he hears the frustrations of the community and thanks them for allowing the station to be fully staffed to provide this type of support. 

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