AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department said to watch your car this summer — car thefts are up more than 40% this year compared to last, according to the latest data from April.

“Most of our vehicles are stolen while the vehicles are left running,” Detective Francisco Jimenez said.

The intense heat may have some people leaving their vehicles running unattended with the air conditioning on for a quick minute.

“That’s what the thieves are looking for: an opportunity to steal those vehicles, “ Jimenez said.

The detective said many drivers may also leave the keys in the ignition to keep their car cool for pets or children.

“My advice: have a plan,” Jimenez said. “There are certain ways to lock vehicles. You can get steering wheel locks. Chances are, if a suspect tries to take your vehicle, he is going to have to overcome that.”

APD also said it’s important for people to keep their vehicle registration up to date in case their car ever is stolen. That will help wrecker companies get in touch with victims if the car is recovered.

According to data from APD, car thefts have been increasing each year for at least the past five years. This year, Austin has had more car thefts each month compared to that month in the previous year. In April, the most recent data it provided, there were 443 thefts compared to 281 in April 2021. The month with the most thefts so far this year was March with 467.

What to do if your car is stolen

APD said people should call 911 if their vehicle is stolen. An officer will respond and take a police report, which will be entered into a national database that officers across the country can use to check if cars they pull over are stolen. People should provide as much information as they can about what happened, APD said.

If a trailer or RV trailer is stolen, people should instead call 311. It will be input into the same database.

APD will let victims know if their cars are found.