RANTOUL — The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Champaign Police Department and Urbana Police Department, is warning Champaign County residents of a recent increase in vehicle thefts.

Many of the thefts have been committed by juveniles, the vehicles were left unlocked and keys were left in the vehicle.

“Many times, theft of any kind, including vehicle theft, is a crime of opportunity,” Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said. “Vehicles that are easy to steal are more likely to be stolen. Champaign County residents need to be proactive in protecting their property from theft.”

Law enforcement reminds residents to always lock their vehicle doors, do not leave keys inside the vehicle and do not have anything valuable inside the vehicle that can be easily seen by a passerby.

Additional safety reminders:

• Thieves prefer to work in the dark. Park in secure, well-lit areas near other vehicles if possible – especially at night.

• Always be aware of your surroundings.

• If you have a car alarm, do not forget to activate it.

• Do not leave your vehicle title in the car. Too often a car thief is pulled over and gets away from the police because he or she can produce the auto registration.

If you become a victim of vehicle theft, you should immediately contact police to file a stolen vehicle report. You may be asked to provide the license plate number; make, model and year of the vehicle; and the vehicle identification number. You should then immediately contact your insurance company to file a claim and report your car stolen.

Residents are encouraged to report suspicious behavior to help look out for one another. Many burglary and theft arrests are a result of alert citizens notifying police.