Joy ride

Police see trend in theft of vehicles that have been left with engine running

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A hitchhiker allegedly stole an unattended pickup Wednesday from the parking lot of Loaf N' Jug west of town.

Teresa McKenzie, 45, allegedly jumped in the 1997 Ford pickup, which was left running with the keys inside, and drove west on Highway 40.

A sheriff's deputy made contact with the alleged thief 10 miles west of Craig. McKenzie ignored the deputy's emergency lights but finally pulled over near milepost 66 on Highway 40, about 20 miles west of Craig, said Moffat County Sheriff's Chief Investigator K.C. Hume.

The chase did not reach speeds greater than 75 mph, Hume said.

McKenzie was arrested and booked into the Moffat County Jail on charges of aggravated motor vehicle theft, eluding an officer of the law, and driving under restraint. She is being held on a $2,000 bond.

Loaf N' Jug clerk Dawn Francetich said the victim, Steven Durbin, bought a soda and exited the store around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Moments later, he walked back in and said, "My truck just got stolen," according to Francetich.

"He was in disbelief," Francetich said.

The incident marks the latest theft involving vehicles left unattended but running.

"It's becoming a bad trend," said Craig Police Sgt. Bill Leonard.

According to Leonard, police responded to three or four such auto thefts in the last week. The hot weather tempts motorists leave their cars -- and the air-conditioning -- running while they make a quick stop. Leonard said police are urging residents to turn off their cars and take out the keys under all circumstances when cars will be unattended.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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