By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
A sudden rise in car thefts has grabbed the attention of the California Highway Patrol office in San Andreas.
Three cars were stolen last week, two in San Andreas and one in Valley Springs, said Public Affairs Officer Jan Nichols.
The early-morning thefts occurred to cars that were left idling in the owners' driveways.
"This is extremely unusual," Nichols said. "Generally, we average about three vehicle thefts a month, and that can include motorcycles, sedans or trucks."
Lt. Les Quinn, CHP commander of the San Andreas area, said, "On these very cold and icy mornings, residents are going out to their cars, starting them, then returning into their homes while the car 'warms up' outside.
"While the resident is in the house, people walking by on the roadway see the idling car with no one around, jump in and take off."
Nichols said last week's three stolen cars were abandoned after their radios were torn out.
Quinn and Nichols said that if an idling car is stolen and is later involved in an accident, the car's owner could be liable in civil court.
"Because of the circumstances under which it was stolen, it can come back and bite you in the civil courts because you were neglectful when you left it running unattended," she said.
Quinn said the county is growing rapidly and the era of leaving house doors unlocked and cars idling in the driveway is passed.