Paige Chiacchia knew the second her boyfriend’s vehicle was stolen from their driveway, that her car was in danger of being taken next.
It was about 8:30 a.m. on Monday and 30 minutes earlier, her boyfriend Kevin Nyamutera had his Silver Toyota RAV4 stolen as it sat running in the driveway. He was on his way to the gym, and had left the vehicle running while he dashed back inside to get the gym bag he’d forgotten.
It only took him about a minute to go inside and grab his bag but when he came out, the RAV4 was gone. It’s the kind of crime police often describe as a warm-up theft. The couple live on a quiet residential street in London’s Old South neighbourhood.
What made the couple’s situation precarious is that the spare key to Chiacchia’s 2020 Ford Fusion was on the key ring of her boyfriend’s car stolen minutes earlier. She reported the first theft to police, but was worried her vehicle was now vulnerable. As it turns out, those fears were well-founded.
“I was about to go buy a steering wheel lock … and Googling where to get one,” she said. “I got dressed and was about to go get the steering wheel lock and my car was also gone.
“We were sitting in the living room in dead silence, listening, and we could not hear a single thing. Not a car door, nothing.”
‘They used his vehicle to take mine’
After viewing a neighbour’s security camera footage, Chiacchia said it showed the thieves returning to the scene of the crime once they found the keys for her car inside the vehicle they’d just stolen.
“They used his vehicle to come take mine,” she said.
Police are looking for both vehicles and the couple has already started the insurance claims and been issued rentals.
However, Chiacchia said losing both vehicles inside of an hour and only 10 days before Christmas is beyond annoying. Like most people at this time of year, they have errands to run and family to visit.
Chiacchia and her partner work from home. She runs Royalty Lash Studio and he owns 519 Movers.
“My car was a 2020 [model year] I had just paid off my loan, he just got his car in July,” she said. “Now we both have to go get new cars.”
The couple admit leaving the first vehicle running — something many people do when they’re in a rush in the winter — was a mistake. But she’s going ahead with plans to buy a steering wheel lock for her new car. A set of security cameras for the driveway was on their Christmas wish list before the thefts, now those gifts are coming early.
“Shout out to my Mom because they will be here Friday as an early Christmas gift now because of the urgency,” Chiacchia said of the cameras. “I think they’ll act as a deterrent.”
Chiacchia wanted to share her story to let other Londoners know that car thieves are out there on the prowl looking for an opportunity to snatch your vehicle. At a time of year when people are busy, tired and distracted, it’s easy to become a victim.
A CBC News investigation published in October revealed that Toronto has seen a large spike in car thefts this year.
Chiacchia feels that in this case, the thieves might have had their eye on the vehicles well before they were taken.
“Having a routine as simple as going to the gym in the morning could be dangerous and pose a potential threat,” she said.
How to protect yourself
Police say there are steps vehicle owners can take to avoid becoming victims of driveway thefts.
Const. Krysten Howell-Harries of the London Police Service said it’s important to remember that car thieves are constantly prowling residential areas, looking for a chance to strike.
“You never know who’s out there walking around, looking at your car,” she said. “We have some safety tips that anyone can follow not only in the winter, but throughout the whole year.”
Those tips include:
- Do not leave your vehicle unattended while running; use a keyless remote starter or proximity key instead.
- Make sure you keep your keys in a secure area in your home and away from doors and windows.
- Invest in anti-theft devices, such as steering wheel locks.
- Invest in security cameras for your home.
- Ensure valuables are not stored in your vehicle or that they are kept out of sight.
- Don’t keep spare keys or garage door openers in or around the car.