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West Bromwich Albion defender Liam Ridgewell is joining West Midlands Police in warning drivers not to leave their cars unattended while they defrost this winter.

With temperatures set to plummet below zero this week officers are reminding people across the force area to never leave their vehicles with the engine running.

Ridgewell, who has also played for Birmingham City and Aston Villa in the past, was himself a victim of opportunistic car theft in December 2011 when thieves stole his Audi Q7 which he had left defrosting outside his Sutton Coldfield home.

Officers later recovered the vehicle and charged a 29-year-old man with theft – at court he was sentenced to twelve weeks behind bars.

Midlands football star Liam said: “I understand how easy it is to get complacent about leaving your car running while it’s defrosting. You just assume nothing will happen to it especially if you’re only leaving it for a moment. That’s exactly what I did only to come out and find my car had gone!

“I was fortunate because the police did a great job and got my car back for me very quickly but I suggest people learn from my error when defrosting their cars this winter because you may not be as lucky as I was.

“I’ve certainly learned my lesson and won’t be leaving my car unattended when defrosting it again.”

During winter 2012/13, 48 cars were stolen when owners left them to warm up outside their homes.

Andy Gregory, Force Crime Reduction officer, is reinforcing the warning to never wander off and leave your car running to defrost.

He said: “It may be surprising but we continue to see people leaving their cars with the keys in on their drives on icy mornings. It takes an opportunistic thief just seconds to jump into a vehicle and drive it off so it really isn’t worth the risk.

“Car security has a come a long way but by leaving keys in the car and the engine running it couldn’t be easier for someone to steal it.

“Sometimes people think they are being security conscious by locking the door of the car with a spare set of keys, while leaving the other set in the ignition.

“However thieves will quickly and happily smash a window in order to drive away in your vehicle.”

In addition to the loss of a car, insurance companies will often refuse to pay out when vehicles have been stolen in this way, adding to the stress.

If your house keys are taken as well, drivers are also making their homes vulnerable.

The advice is to clear windscreens with de-icer and a scraper and sit in your vehicle while the heater de-mists the windscreen.

If you see anyone acting suspiciously, call 101. If you see a crime being committed call 999.

Anyone who has any information about vehicle crime can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 

For tips and advice about securing your car visit www.west-midlands.police.uk/safermotors

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