Warming up your car could get you in trouble with the law

When temperatures plunge below freezing, you see a lot of vehicles running, pumping out hot air, without anyone behind the wheel.

"When I went out there, it was ice, frost all on the cars. It was pretty cold this morning," said Calvin Grier.

"I’ve been starting my truck at 5:55 just so it can get warmed up so it can get warmed up for when I first take off," said Bradley Robertson.

But police say that may not be such a wise idea.

"These vehicles are taken in the dozens all throughout Charlotte. From last year, there was not any specific area," said CMPD Officer Chris Kopp.

"I've actually seen people checking doors around here. When I saw that happen, that was a pretty big wake up call," said Risa Fitzgerald.

In an effort to put the brakes on auto theft, the City of Charlotte made it illegal to leave your car running with the key inside at public or quasi-public places like a gas station or parking lot at an apartment complex.

"They're being taken a lot from gas stations from people running in real quick to grab a cup of coffee and don't want their car to cool down. Also in private neighborhoods. It doesn't take much for a criminal to drive down a neighborhood and see which vehicles are running," said Officer Kopp.

It is completely legal to use remote start or to leave your car idling in your driveway since it’s private property.

If you do choose to tempt fate, officers say your insurance company will likely not be very understanding.

"Insurance companies are starting to see this. If your car is taken while unattended, the insurance company will not pay out. Now, the car owner is left without a vehicle and having to purchase one on their own," said Officer Kopp.

Since January first, more than a hundred cars have been stolen according to CMPD. About ten percent of those have been vehicles running unattended with the key in the ignition.

The fine for leaving the key in the ignition is 50 dollars and applies only to the City of Charlotte. Police also warn delivery workers who can be targeted while leaving their car unattended.