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Warm up your car unattended and you're asking to be ripped off

Sunnyside police officers have arrested a 20-year-old Sunnyside man believed to be responsible for several car thefts in the Lower Valley.

The suspect is believed to have taken the cars as opportunities presented themselves. The cars were left running to warm up by their owners, and were driven away by the man, according to arresting officer Oliver Hernandez, who chased the suspect down on foot Wednesday.

Sunnyside police are investigating the possibility that the man is responsible for another stolen car in town and Mabton police also have him listed as a potential suspect.

Capt. Phil Schenck of the Sunnyside Police Department said this time of year when the weather is bitter cold is when several automobile thefts occur.

He explained that people will start their cars to warm them up and go back inside their homes, leaving their cars open to opportunistic thieves.

"It doesn't matter what neighborhood you live in," said Schenck. "It is never a good idea to warm up your car unoccupied or unlocked in your front yard."

He said for about $200 a remote start-up system can be purchased for the vehicle, which will not allow anyone to drive off unless they put a key in the ignition. For those wanting to continue to warm their car unoccupied, he said this is a good option.

He explained that people will continue to steal unoccupied cars that are running, especially when the weather is cold.

"This is the easiest way for a car thief to steal your car," he added.

The suspect was taken to Yakima County Jail this morning, where he awaits a preliminary trial.

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