PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Holiday shoppers can be easily distracted, and that makes them prime targets of thieves looking to break in or steal their cars, according to the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority.
"You get busy and you get complacent," said holiday shopper Steve Warburton. "You walk away from your car and forget to lock it and the next thing you know, somebody right there tries to steal it from you."
Fred Zumbo is executive director of the Arizona Arizona Auto Theft Authority.
He said that auto theft and car burglaries are a major problem this time of year with more and more people leaving gifts and valuables in plain sight, or forgetting keys in the ignition.
"That's what the criminal is looking for," said Zumbo. "The criminal is actually out there among us while we are shopping. They are looking for targets and the target is going to be the person not paying attention."
Last year, more than 18,000 vehicles were stolen across the state, with many of them taken between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Zumbo said that some of the newer vehicles, with anti-theft devices, are harder to steal, leading to an increase in carjackings.
He can't stress enough how important it is for holiday shoppers to pay more attention and make sure their vehicles are secure.
"Law enforcement can't be everywhere all the time," said Zumbo. "If we take an extra step to harden our defense, we can be successful in preventing crime."