The cold weather may be contributing to an alarming rise in a particular crime in the South Bay -- auto thefts. There are more than a dozen every day in San Jose, and because of staffing, there usually isn’t much police can do about it.
One officer told NBC Bay Area the computer in his cruiser showed 26 stolen cars in San Jose in a 24-hour period. The San Jose Police Department says the number was a little lower than that, but sometimes there is something you can do to prevent thieves from targeting your car.
The Christmas decorations are still up, but there’s something missing from the front of one home on Woodminister Drive in San Jose -- a Honda. The family car was stolen in the middle of the day.
“It was so weird because we came out and we didn’t see the car, and we walked all around,” Fatima Gonzalez said.
The Gonzalez family is not alone. Police say, officially, thieves stole 18 cars in the city in a 24-hour span -- and it is a trend. They say thieves seem to know stolen cars are considered a low-priority crime these days.
“Auto theft is a property crime and with staffing levels and some of the crime problems that we’re facing here in San Jose right now, property crimes fall a little bit lower on the totem poles than a violent crime,” SJPD Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.
Meaning it might take officers hours to respond to your call.
Police also say the crooks take advantage of the cold winter mornings.
“In the winter we have to entertain the possibility that the weather is a factor. People come out, they warm their cars up, they leave them unattended in the driveway with the keys in the ignition, the cars running,” Dwyer said. “You have criminals that are walking around at five, six in the morning and they’re looking for that warm-up or to swap out that stolen car that they're currently driving.”
The Gonzalezes are one of the lucky ones. Police found their car, but it was on blocks.
Veroncia Gonzalez says she's angry because the family is barely getting by and now they need new wheels.
Police say the cars of choice for thieves are ‘90s model Honda Accords and Civics, as well as some Toyotas.