Howard County police released a composite drawing yesterday of a man they suspect is involved in one of a string of vehicle thefts in Ellicott City, where drivers left their vehicles with engines running or keys inside.
Seven vehicles were stolen from U.S. 40 in the past week, at times when residents have let safety slip their minds, police said. In each case, a thief lurking outside banks, gas stations and grocery stores has taken advantage of careless drivers.
The stolen cars were abandoned in Ellicott City, Baltimore and Chesapeake, Va., police said.
The drawing is based on the June 16 theft of a gray Isuzu Rodeo. The vehicle was stolen from a pump at the Shell gas station in the 9000 block of U.S. 40. Police said an employee of O'Donnell Pontiac in Ellicott City left the new vehicle there with the keys inside while paying for gas.
Witnesses told police they saw a white male in his mid-30s get into the vehicle and drive off. They said he was 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall and weighed 140 to 170 pounds, with long brown hair and a rough beard.
Police said the man -- who may have a tattoo of a skull or face colored red, black and green on his arm -- was seen in only one of the seven incidents.
Police said the Isuzu was recovered Monday at an apartment complex in the 3300 block of Chatham Road.
Last year, Howard police reported 1,079 auto thefts in the county. Crime statistics released by police last week show there were 262 auto thefts from January through March.
Anyone with information should call Howard County police at 313-3200 or 313-2220.