They stole his car and drove it back to steal her 45 minutes later

Paige Chiacchia knew the second her boyfriend’s car was stolen from her driveway that her car was in danger of being stolen next.

It was around 8:30 a.m. Monday and 30 minutes before her boyfriend Kevin Nyamutera had his silver Toyota RAV4 stolen as he was walking around the driveway. He was on his way to the gym and had left the car running while he rushed back inside to get the gym bag he’d forgotten.

It only took him about a minute to go in and get his bag, but when he came out, the RAV4 was gone. It’s the kind of criminal investigation that’s often referred to as warm-up stealing. The couple live on a quiet residential street in London’s Old South.

What made the couple’s situation precarious was that the spare key for Chiacchia’s 2020 Ford Fusion was on the keychain of her boyfriend’s car, which had been stolen minutes earlier. She reported the first theft to police but feared her vehicle was now vulnerable. As it turned out, those fears were well founded.

“I was about to buy a steering wheel lock… and googled where to get one,” she said. “I got dressed and was about to get the steering wheel lock and my car was gone too.

“We sat dead still in the living room, listening and hearing nothing. No car door, nothing.”

“They used his vehicle to take mine”

After viewing footage from a neighbor’s surveillance camera, Chiacchia said it showed the thieves returning to the scene after finding the keys to their car in the vehicle they had just stolen.

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“They used his vehicle to pick mine up,” she said.

Police are searching for both vehicles and the couple have already started making insurance claims and issuing rental contracts.

However, Chiacchia said the loss of both vehicles within an hour and just 10 days before Christmas was more than upsetting. Like most people at this time of year, they have errands to run and family to visit.

Chiacchia and her partner work from home. She runs Royalty Lash Studio and he owns 519 Movers.

“My car was a 2020 [model year] I had just paid off my loan, he didn’t get his car until July,” she said. “Now we both have to buy new cars.”

The couple admit that leaving the first vehicle running was a mistake – which a lot of people do when they’re in a hurry in the winter. But she still plans to buy a steering wheel lock for her new car. A set of driveway security cameras was on her Christmas wish list before the thefts, but now those presents are coming sooner.

“Call my mom because of the urgency now they will be here on Friday as an early Christmas present,” Chiacchia said over the cameras. “I think they will act as a deterrent.”

Chiacchia wanted to share her story to let other Londoners know that car thieves are out there looking for an opportunity to steal your vehicle. At a time of year when people are busy, tired, and distracted, it’s easy to become a victim.

A CBC News investigation published in October found that Toronto has seen a large spike in auto thefts this year.

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In this case, Chiacchia believes the thieves may have been eyeing the vehicles long before they were hijacked.

“A routine as simple as going to the gym in the morning could be dangerous and pose a potential threat,” she said.

How to protect yourself

Police say driveway thefts — especially warm-up thefts — are common in winter.

However, there are steps vehicle owners can take to avoid becoming a victim, including:

  • Don’t leave your vehicle unattended while driving, use a remote keyless starter or proximity key instead.
  • Make sure you keep your keys in a safe place in your home and away from doors and windows.
  • Invest in anti-theft devices such as steering wheel locks.
  • Invest in security cameras for your home.
  • Make sure no valuables are kept in your vehicle or kept out of sight.
  • Do not keep spare keys or garage door openers in or near the car.