Police warn against leaving children in cars, even if it's for a short time

It's any parent's nightmare - a vehicle is stolen with children inside. It may sound unlikely, but it can and does happen in the blink of an eye.

On the morning of March 18, Jackson Day's father went into the Covington Shell Gas Station on 4th Street to pay for gas. Moments later two suspects jumped into his 2005 Dodge Caravan and took off with the 4-year-old boy in the backseat.

Thankfully, the child wasn't harmed and the suspects were taken into custody.

But how many parents really do leave their kids in the car for just a minute and hope a nightmare like that doesn't happens to them?

A running car left unattended is an open invitation to steal.

"All it's doing is giving these criminals the opportunity to jump in there and be gone before you know it," said Lt. Rich Whitford with the Fort Thomas Police Department.

What if your kid was inside what becomes a stolen vehicle?

"You don't know how much you love them until something like this happens," said Judy Day, Jackson Day's grandmother.

"Just kept praying that they didn't hurt him and didn't do nothing to him," said Peggy Spradlin, Day's aunt.

Tri-state area police agencies as a whole investigate about 500 vehicle thefts a year. Most of those cases involve vehicles that are running and left unattended, but there are also cases that give innocent kids mini-joyrides.

"You turn your attention to the cashier, you turn around and your vehicle is gone, you have no idea, we had it happen here recently because it does happen here," said Whitford.

So why does it happen?

"There are so many scenarios where children are left in danger," said Whitford. "Just running into a store the child might be sleeping and might be buckled into a car seat and you think that you're only going to be a minute or two."

Several parents say they would not leave their kids in their car for any amount of time.

"Never, never, there are just too many things that can happen," said Marilyn Wilson. "You never plan on those things happening but just in case you don't want to be the one and the thought of something happening to my children because I made one of those rash decisions I wouldn't be good for the rest of my life so I made a choice a long time ago that I would never do that."

FOX19 News went undercover, spending several days at convenience stores, post offices and gas stations to see how many parents really do refuse to take a chance of leaving their kids alone, even for just a minute. In the hours we watched, no one left their kids.

"I don't even think that it's complacency, I just think that you don't think that it's going to be you and it one of those things where you say it's going to be OK and that is the way that I like to operate at, that everything is going to be OK but I'm still responsible," said Wilson. "Those kids didn't ask to be here, it our jobs to take care of them I don't care how inconvenient it is...take those kids with you."

In some cases, leaving children unattended in a car can lead to criminal charges.

"Yes, it is in the state of Kentucky. It is against the law to leave a vehicle running unattended, said Whitford.

Police and child advocates say if you're in the situation, make the judgment simple. Turn your car off and don't leave your kids alone.

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