Marion man has car stolen after leaving it running unattended

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A Marion man says he was just trying to keep his vehicle warm in sub zero weather when someone stole his SUV.

it. It happened on December 30th at Casey's General Store at 680 Lindale Drive in Marion. Michael McAtee says he was running inside to get a cup of hot chocolate before work.

He had his spare key on him, and thought he locked up before going inside. A person at the nearby laundromat spotted the SUV and drove off with it. Police are still searching for the person who did it. McAtee thinks the person is homeless, and stole his car to stay warm.

He adds, "Well I feel violated. And like I told the officer, the Marion Police officer. I told them, I said I would've given him a ride. You know, some place or a shelter, or wherever he wanted to go."

Marion Police officer Tom Daubs says situations like these happen at least a couple of times a year in the winter.

"What I would suggest for (people) is go to a place that installs remote starts. You can start your car, it will run for I think there's anywhere you can set it, program it whatever the case may be. Ten minutes, 15-20 minute increments," Daubs said.

Daubs says McAtee wasn't ticketed because he was on private property. A change to the law in February made it legal for cars to run unattended, as long as it’s not on a public roadway.

Police say with remote starts and keyless entries it's harder for people to steal a car. Daubs says they rarely enforced the ordinance.

"In 22 years I've never heard of an officer giving a ticket out for an unattended vehicle running on private property or public property,” Daubs said.

The vehicle was found Monday in Cedar Rapids. Police will check it for evidence, then give it back to McAtee. He says he will keep his doors locked from now on.

He adds, "I screwed up, you know. I don't know how else to put it."