NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In the first nine months of the year, 300 more cars were stolen in Davidson County than compared to 2017.
Sgt. Chad Young runs Metro Nashville Police Department's auto theft unit. He said police are frustrated that people are leaving their cars unlocked despite warnings that an average 60% of stolen vehicles are taken with the keys.
"If the opportunity is there and a key is accessible to them they'll go ahead and take the vehicle," said Sgt. Young.
As of this publishing, police reported 2,295 cars had been stolen in Davidson County this year.
"It's really a crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Young.
In addition to car owners who leave their cars unlocked, drivers at risk are those who have misconceptions about their keyless or push-start ignitions.
"[They think] if the car gets away from the key fob it will shut off," said Sgt. Young. "That's just not the case."
Other victims are those who are unaware of valet keys from the manufacturer in the glove box.
"That's one of the first things they check," said Sgt. Young. "See if they can access your valet key and take your car."
The auto theft unit investigates vehicles stolen and broke into. Sgt. Young said the perpetrators are often the same people.
In September, Jenny Van Valkenburg, known by her fans as Jenny Gill, had her car stolen when she was unloading the SUV for a show.
"I felt very violated and scared," said Van Valkenburg.
Her Lexus was stolen from an alley behind a music venue in broad daylight.
"I couldn't have been away from my car for more than 20 minutes," said Van Valkenburg. "It happened in the blink of an eye."
Her car was recovered by police in Edgehill. Police recover about 80% of stolen cars.
"We find them all over," said Sgt. Young. "We find them in apartments, parked in middle of the street."
Police report most thieves aren't after a new car. They steal a car to be used in a more serious crime.
"Often times they dump the vehicle because they think it's hot, police are on to them," said Sgt. Young. "They then stop using that vehicle and go on to find another one."
Trends show teenagers are frequently committing the crimes.
"You talk to the school resource officers that we have in the schools, they hear these juveniles are stealing cars," said Sgt. Young.
And guns are consistently stolen from cars.
"[Thieves} know the hiding places people use to hide their guns in their vehicles," said Sgt Young.
According to police, no neighborhood, vehicle or car owner is off limits. Your car is a target if it's unlocked, left running, has a key or fob inside.
Jenny Van Valkenburg is grateful to have her car back and said nothing was taken from it.
"Now I lock my car about eight times in a row when I walk away from it," said Van Valkenburg. "I do feel a little paranoid, but it just is what it is."