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Police warn of car thefts during winter

Police investigated two back-to-back car thefts in mid-December resulting from people leaving their cars running and unattended outside their homes.

“We live in a small town and we’re comfortable,” said Lt. Terry Moss with the St. Helens Police Department. “We leave our houses unlocked, our cars. Every once in a while, it catches up with us.”

When the weather gets cold, Moss said it’s tempting for people to let their cars warm up unattended, never thinking about who might be walking around.

While car thefts are not as common as other crimes in St. Helens — there were 17 car theft cases in 2012, and 13 the year before — police almost always see one or two this time of year.

On Dec. 18, a man on Oregon Street started his car and left it running. He went back inside to wait for it to warm up. When he came out five minutes later, the car was gone.

Columbia County deputies recovered the car several hours later when its driver, and suspect in the theft, Cody Seever, 25, crashed it on Canyon Road. Seever was critically injured and is currently a patient at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Moss said.

Deputies believe drugs and alcohol may have been involved, but Seever’s motivation in the case is not known. He has been in no condition to answer police questions, investigators told Moss.

And the car he is believed to have stolen: “It’s absolutely demolished,” Moss said.

On Dec. 19, at 6:25 a.m., St. Helens police responded to a report of another stolen vehicle. This theft occurred not far from the first one.

As in the first case, a women, who had left her car running, came back out and it was gone. The car was found around noon the same day in Clatskanie. Someone had crashed it into a telephone box and pole.

While few things will stop a determined thief, Moss recommended taking commonsense precautions to prevent car theft. At the top of his list? Don’t leave keys in an unlocked car.

“Lock your car, put the keys away,” he said.

Also, though it is rare for officers to enforce the rule, leaving a car running unattended on a public street could result in a citation, Moss said.

“You can do that in your driveway all day long,” he said. But on the street, it’s a traffic violation.