The holidays at this time of the year have gone from being simply a time for fun and family to a week also full of opportunities for enterprising criminals.

Of all holidays, New Year’s Day had the most auto thefts across the country last year, according to a report released earlier this month by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Last year, 2,228 vehicles thefts were reported to have been stolen on Jan. 1.

New Year’s Eve was third on the list, behind Labor Day. Christmas Eve was sixth, following Memorial Day and Halloween.

Christmas was the least likely day to have a car stolen.

The best tip for having a crime-free holiday season could be one of the hardest for Twin Cities residents braving unforgiving winters: Don’t start your car and leave it alone to warm up before taking off.

Of 17 vehicles that were stolen earlier this month in Minneapolis, 11 were taken after being left unattended and running.

In St. Paul, a woman in the 900 block of Thomas Avenue had her car stolen from her garage Tuesday morning while she was letting it warm up.

“People don’t think they are going to be a victim,” said Kim Bingham, an assistant director of the criminal division of the Ramsey County attorney’s office.

“They are only going inside for five minutes. What can go wrong? And then they come out and their car is gone.”

On average, 23 cars are stolen every day in Minnesota. Out of the 49 auto theft cases the Ramsey County attorney’s office charged from July through September, using a key found in the vehicle was the favorite method of thieves — accounting for 22 percent of the cases.

It is against city ordinance to leave a vehicle (except a commercial one) unattended in a street, alley or parking lot with the keys in the ignition.

To further reduce the chances of your car being stolen, park on busy and well-lit streets, keep electronics and other valuables out of sight, and shut and lock all windows and doors.

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