A Scary Number Of Cars Are Stolen With Kids Inside

by Julie Scagell
Kelvin Murray/Getty

Many car thefts happen with kids still in the car

At some point or another, many parents have either thought about leaving their kids in the car while they run in to pay for gas or pick up a last-minute grocery item or done so, never thinking their car could be stolen in an instant. According to one organization, this horrifying situation happens more than you would think.

“Families are being traumatized and expensive AMBER Alerts are being issued as a result of these easily preventable incidents,” Amber Rollins of tells Scary Mommy via press release. The company documented 17 children (and four cases involving dogs) last month alone who were taken in a stolen vehicle. One case resulted in the tragic death of a teen who was dragged to death trying to escape from the backseat of her family’s SUV while her family went inside to grab food.

In 2019, they documented over 200 U.S. children taken in stolen vehicles. While the number seems low, it only takes imagining the horrific incident as a parent to make leaving your child for 30 seconds feel unimaginable. “Although the victims of these types of incidents typically survive, it is incredibly distressing for everyone involved. Because this is easily preventable, we can avoid the unnecessary trauma and use of precious law enforcement resources by simply never leaving children alone in vehicles.” Janette Fennell, president and founder of, said.

Police are also concerned because, in some cases like one that happened in Minneapolis in February, the stolen car gets abandoned once the thief realizes a child is inside. Depending on where you live (and in this instance) it can put the child in extreme danger because of outside temperatures.

“It could be tucked and hidden. The child could be sitting in the car and we are in subzero temperatures,” police spokesperson John Elder told Fox9 News. In the end, that is exactly what happened. Luckily, it wasn’t long after the car was reported stolen and the boy was found safe.

It can seem harmless to leave a sleeping baby in their car seat for a quick errand rather than waking them up or letting an older kid stay in the car while you run into a store, but it’s just not worth it.

The organization recommends that if you see a child alone in a vehicle, “get involved.” This means calling 911 if you see a child in distress and acting quickly. Now, more than ever, there are drive-thru or curbside services available that don’t require you to leave your vehicle, so use them. Finally, make sure all your car doors are locked every time you step away from your vehicle or if you’re sitting inside a parked car.

The bottom line? It’s better to be safe than sorry.