MUSKEGON, MICH. - Thursday night, Jan. 4 was very busy for officers with Muskegon's Police Department. There were three stolen vehicles to track down: all were left running, two outside homes and another in the parking lot of a business.
It started around 8 p.m. at a home on East Holbrook when the temperature had dropped to around 10-degrees.
Pastor Andre McClanahan was working to fix his van's heater. He left the van running and ran inside his home to warm his hands.
"Just a couple of minutes," said McClanahan. "And I mean a couple of minutes."
When he went back outside someone was driving away in the van.
"I was shocked," said McClanahan. "This is actually happening."
One hour later a white van was captured by a camera entering the Polish Falcons Club's parking lot. It was McClanahan's van. The one with no heat.
"They were driving around in a cold car," said McClanahan. "The windows wouldn't defrost."
The camera at the club also captured the thief who ditched the van driving away in a truck that was left running and unattended.
Bartender Dena Paggeot told police a club members left it running for just a few minutes. It's something several members do in the winter.
"Probably not anymore," said Paggeot.
The truck is still missing. Muskegon Police also took a report of a stolen vehicle on Elwood Street. It too was left running just steps from the owner's front door. Police recovered that vehicle early Friday morning, Jan. 5.
"We at the police department see the inconvenience that citizens go through when their cars are taken when they are just trying to warm them up," said Jeffrey Lewis, Muskegon's Director of Public Safety.
At Bakker Auto and Marine Trim owner Todd Carmichael says business picks up when it's cold. His crew can instill a remote starter in just a couple of hours.
"You are tricking the car to start without a key," said Carmichael.
Basic car starters cost around $300 and units with more features cost around $500.
At either price point, the remote starters offer both warmth and protection.
"When it is running on the remote start you can't steal it," said Carmichael. "Even if the window was open and they climbed in, as soon as you hit the brake pedal to shift it into gear the car shuts off if it doesn't see the key."
Muskegon Police have not yet made any arrests related to the thefts. Detectives were attempting to remove fingerprints from two of the recovered stolen vehicles.
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