Police Investigate Holiday Car Thefts in Missoula
Two cars are still missing after being stolen in Missoula after owners left them running, with the doors unlocked.
The first happened in front of Noon's on southwest Higgins just after 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The second car was taken four hours later, just after midnight Christmas morning at the Town and Country Lounge on Third Street West.
Police believe the incidents are unrelated but both suspects were male.
Detective Sergeant Jim Klawitter with the Missoula Police Department says that car thefts happen several times each winter. People leave their car doors unlocked and even running, while unoccupied.
"People will take advantage of that and drive away in their car," said Klawitter.
Two car thefts happened in two days, just four hours apart.
"I think it's a pretty safe community but you still don't want to tempt people and leave something unlocked," said Klawitter.
Both vehicles are still missing and law enforcement is waiting for surveillance footage of the suspects.
The news was surprising to Missoula resident Dawn Soul. "I am shocked," said Soul.
She's always known Missoula as a safe community, a place where people watch out for each other and others agreed.
"Missoula is still small enough and friendly enough. We should be able to leave our car running. At least, I’d like to think so," said Missoula resident Tim Doherty.
"For the most part I feel that it is pretty safe. There's definitely been issues overtime since it's that time of the year. There's definitely more thefts and more break-ins," said Missoula resident Laurie Tackitt.
“I'm pretty cautious about my vehicle,” said Missoula resident Doug Doty. Doty uses his dog to guard against thieves.
"I think my dog can protect the car and I think that with a big husky, people are pretty unlikely to be reaching their hand in there and try to figure out if ‘Oh is it going to be friendly or not?’," said Doty.
But Klawitter says you should lock your door every time.
"I have remote start and I don't have to have my keys in the ignition for that so I can start it from inside my house," said Tackitt.
"I have a spare key. I can let my car run and lock the front door and go in and unlock it and it's still running," said Stevensville resident Thomas Frame.
Klawitter says it's not a common holiday crime but it does happen and safety precautions are a must.
One suspect took a 2002 white Buick. The other grabbed a 2002 black Chevy Impala.
Investigators are waiting for surveillance footage which may help identify the suspects.