Mahoning Township Police have investigated numerous incidents in recent weeks in which items were stolen from unlocked vehicles.

Among the stolen items was a loaded hand gun, snatched from a vehicle parked in a driveway. Fortunately, the gun was found in some bushes on the same property. The result could have been tragic had a youngster found the gun or if it ended up in the wrong hands.

Last week, two cars on the Heights section of Jim Thorpe had windows smashed by thieves. Both vehicles were locked. The thieves stole various valuables that were inside the vehicles.

Mahoning Township Chief of Police Kenneth Barnes strongly urges individuals to make sure their vehicles are kept locked.

Police also stress that you should not keep valuables in your vehicle - especially in plain view - whether you have the vehicle locked or unlocked. This includes GPS units, EZ Passes, wallets, and even CDs - and certainly not a loaded gun.

With wintry weather coming soon, police also advise that you should not warm-up your car by letting it run with the doors unlocked. This is an open invitation to thieves.

Don't run into mini-marts or schools while letting your vehicles run.

Did you know that if your vehicle is stolen while its running, you could be fined? Insurance companies might also be recluctant to pay claims for your negligence.

In addition, you might become liable if the thief causes property damage or injures someone with your vehicle since you are the owner of it.

Especially in rural areas, it used to be that people never locked their homes or cars. Times have changed. People are more brazen and dishonest. Obviously from events which have recently occurred, thieves think nothing of trespassing into yards or driveways to steal from vehicles.

If you have any valuables in your car, take them inside your house overnight. Do not let them in full view at any time where they might be tempting for a thief.

The Christmas shopping season is coming up soon, and the same advice applies. When you go shopping, lock valuables in your trunk before you go into the mall parking lot. Putting them into your truck when you park might prompt vandalism to your vehicle from a determined thief who is watching you.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com