It’s an all too common mistake, leaving valuables unattended and cars unlocked. It's a bad combo for you, but a good one for thieves.

Purses, keys, and cell phones are just some of the hot ticket items Chattanooga Police said are invitations to crooks prowling in city limits.

"It’s not one of those situations where it happened under the mask of night or was parked in a poorly lit area, it's happening right in the open," said Capt. Jerri Sutton with CPD.

Five recent car thefts happened in front of the owner’s home. Police said they typically see spikes in car thefts when the seasons change, when drivers attempt to heat or cool their cars.

So far this year, 57 cars have been stolen from the downtown and NorthShore communities.
Compare that to this time last year, when 37 thefts were reported. A 55 percent increase -- and it's easy to see why.

Channel 3 visited one street where police report thefts are up. It didn't take long for us to find cars left visibly unlocked and owners who don't think twice.

"I just don't leave anything inside of it and if anything gets left inside it's my children's things and nobody wants those,” said one driver.

Other cars had cell phones sitting in plain sight.          

"Well it was locked and the phone was charging up so I decided to let it charge,” said another driver.

CPD said these are errors that make your vehicle easy targets. Mistakes they are now hoping to point out by leaving door hangers on cars they believe to be at risk.

"We see valuable items through the windows, or you left your doors unlocked or you left your windows down, these things need to be removed, these are the things you need to do in order to make your car safe,” said Capt. Jerri Sutton.

However, some worry the door hangers may attract criminals. Others are comfortable taking their chances.

"If you're old enough to drive and you have to be taught to lock up your things then you are hopeless anyways, it's my feeling. I mean do people have to be taught as adults to lock up their things?" said Sally Staples.

Though most of the recent thefts have been on the NorthShore and downtown CPD said that can quickly shift to another neighborhood which is why they want everyone to be proactive.