Car Thefts At Gas Stations: Don't Leave Keys In The Ignition

By: Melina Matthes

OMAHA (kptm) - Targeted while at the gas station. An Omaha man left his car for just a few seconds to run inside and thieves took advantage, stealing his car and going for a joyride.

But Omaha police didn't hesitate and found the car within hours. Now police are reminding people to not take the same chance as the driver.

The driver said he was inside this QuikTrip near 72nd and Pacific. He was distracted for about thirty seconds, but it was just enough time for the crook to jump in the driver's seat and take off. "Just something that I would never think would happen to me."

Omaha police said Bill Hogan was targeted at the gas station. After he left the keys in the ignition, thieves didn't hesitate to steal his car and take it for a joyride. "A huge mistake on my part."

He said he grabbed a drink out of the cooler but before he could even get to the cash register, the car was already gone. "I thought maybe one of my friends was outside and he saw me come in and played a joke on me but I went out in the parking lot and I was checking everything out and it was definitely gone."

"If you leave your vehicle running with the keys in it, it's crime of opportunity, somebody's going to hop into that vehicle and take off very quickly with it," Omaha police officer, James Shade said.

And it happened so fast, Hogan couldn't get a good description of the crook. To top it off, QuikTrip only had surveillance video inside the store. Not outside. So no cameras, no crook.

Officer Shade said having a camera is good, but aiming it in the right place is essential. "Make sure that there is very good lighting, that your cameras are actually positioned so that we can see what's going on anytime there's an incident that happens."

But even without the surveillance video, police managed to track down the joyriders. "At the time I wasn't feeling too great about humanity but it's good to know that some people still care and are willing to help people out."

Hogan said he's embarrassed and has learned his lesson. "I'm from a small town in the middle of nowhere, you can do that. Apparently I've learned the hard way that you can't do that here."

And he warns others to not make the same mistake, "This could happen to anybody, this is my morning routine. I come here every day, get something to drink before work and then within 30 seconds my day was pretty much ruined."

A representative at QuikTrip said the gas station tends to have a lot of car thefts during the winter time.

He said don't give crooks the opportunity. When you come inside take your keys with you, that way when you come outside your car is still waiting.

Officer Shade said the police department strongly discourages people from leaving their cars running unattended at gas stations.

He said it's even against the law in Nebraska. However, he said officers typically don't ticket people because having your vehicle stolen is bad enough.

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