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Sheriff's Office urges Harford residents not to leave running vehicles unattended

No one likes to get into a cold car, but the Harford County Sheriff’s Office is warning drivers not to leave their cars unlocked and running.

“It’s a chance for opportunity,” said Sgt. Mike Lane of the Sheriff’s Office traffic unit. “You’re just asking for it to be stolen. Too many bad people are waiting for things like that to pop up.”

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Lane, with the traffic unit for five years, offers a variety of traffic and safety tips in his weekly Traffic Tip Tuesday, which appears on Facebook every week.

Leaving running vehicles unattended can bring citations, fines and points on a driving record, he said.

A vehicle that uses a keyless fob — because the car is locked — can be left running anywhere for up to five minutes, Lane said, citing motor vehicle laws. A car parked on private property, like a driveway, regardless if it uses a keyless fob, can be left running for up to five minutes.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office says misusing handicapped parking can result in citations that carry fines of either $120 or $140 and seizure of the handicap placard. But more importantly it takes away a spot from people who need it.

After that, however, the driver is issued a citation with a fine up to $70 and a possible one point on their driving record, Lane said.

Eleven vehicles were stolen in Harford County in November, according to figures provided by the criminal investigation division. Of those, three were left running, Lane said.

He knows why people do it — it’s early in the morning, they jump in their cars and head to work or school and they don’t want to be in a cold car, so they go outside and start it then go back in.

It can happen at a convenience store during a stop for a morning coffee. Often it’s the store closest to home, Lane said, and the driver goes inside the store and leaves the car running.

“We get the reason why it’s done, but you just need to know you’re creating too much of an opportunity for the bad people out there,” he said. “It like leaving your vehicle unlocked and leaving valuables on your seat. Use common sense.”

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Deputies also have to file reports of stolen vehicles and look for them, which takes them away from other responsibilities, Lane said.

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