Anchorage thieves have stolen 16 cars since Monday morning. The Anchorage Police Department says they’re not sure if the thefts are related, but they normally see only one of two cars stolen every other day.


Most of the cars were stolen from residential areas, and most of them were “easy pickings,” like one KTVA found in Spenard: doors unlocked with the engine running with the keys inside.


Neighbor Harlen Adkinson said it’s something he sees all the time and it’s not a risk he’s going to take.


“I have an autostart and I give it a start and let it warm up for a few minutes and I don’t let it run very long,” he said.


APD said this happens every winter. Ronnie Evans, the driver of the idling car in Spenard, explained why he takes the chance.


“I don’t have autostart so I just get it going, keep it warm as much as possible,” Evans said. “Usually it’s to defrost my windows too, so that’s kind of a timely process.”


He’s not alone — Many Anchorage drivers do the same thing. Bridget Elam said a spare key gives her some security.


“I start it with the key, lock the door and I go back in the house,” she said, adding it’s not a habit she’s likely to change.


“In my neighborhood I feel safe, yeah. I’ve been here 10 years and I haven’t had any issues,” Elam said.


That sense of safety is also what keeps Evans rolling the dice.


“I haven’t had any problems in this neighborhood since I’ve lived here,” he said. “Plus I can see my car from my house window.”


However, APD said it only takes a second and you could be like one of the 16 drivers who had to find another way to get around.


“It’s not just in one concentrated area and it’s also not just happening in the mornings either,” explained APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. “It’s also happening in the evenings as well.”


She said sometimes cars are stolen for parts. More often, they’re taken by drug users.


“Usually they get dumped somewhere in a neighborhood and people are going to find drug paraphernalia or things like that in them,” Castro said.


Not only is it risky, but leaving a car running with the keys inside is also illegal. Anchorage municipal law says cars can only be left running if an autostart or some other form of keyless ignition is installed.