Pittsburgh police investigating after locked car stolen from man’s home

FRIENDSHIP — A man’s locked 2016 Lincoln MKZ was stolen right from in front of his Friendship home.

Pittsburgh Public Safety confirms the theft happened along South Atlantic Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 24 between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Rod Cunningham of Friendship tells Channel 11 he believes his car being stolen may be part of a more elaborate nationwide scheme called “relay thieves” or “key cloning.”

“They have a transmitter that goes and picks up the signal from your fob, transmit(s) it to somebody down by the car with an iPhone. They can get in your car and start it. They can also program it,” said Cunningham.

He believes thieves are using a device that is able to duplicate the signal from your key fob, even if the key is located inside of your home.

“Coming up close to your house or up to the window like this, and picking up a signal and sending it to the guy down by your car,” said Cunningham.

The thieves are then able to use the “push start” feature on your car and drive off with no problems.

A spokesperson with Pittsburgh Public Safety told Channel 11:

“As far as recent thefts, there has been no noticeable uptick. ‘Key cloning’ is not a phenomenon police are dealing with, however in situations where vehicles are of the “push to start” variety, the cars will start as long as the keys/fobs are within a certain proximity. It is possible for a key to be secured inside a home and the car started from the outside, as long as the key is within that proximity. Depending on the model, once the car is started, it can stay running. Oftentimes, thieves will carry gas cans with them to keep these vehicles fueled.”

Cunningham’s car has still not been recovered, but he reports it was last seen being driven in the Hill District.

“You feel like you’re being violated. You just wanna wring somebody’s neck,” said Cunningham.

He hopes by sharing his story, no one will fall victim and the car can be recovered.

“I’d just like to get the car back. I’d like to have him prosecuted. I’d like to get the car back in one piece,” said Cunningham.

In order to protect yourself from vehicle theft, Public Safety suggests:

  • Always shut the car doors, lock them, and take the keys with you.
  • Do not leave cars running or idling.
  • Maintain a safe distance between your key fob and your vehicle

AAA has also weighed in on the issue and offers the following ways to protect your car from fob transponder vehicle thieves:

  • Store your key fobs in a metal container, or a RFID sleeve that has metal mesh linings that will shield a key fob from radio signals.
  • Park your car in a closed garage if possible.
  • Don’t leave valuable items in your vehicle, especially in plain sight.
  • Don’t place key fobs in freezers or microwaves (a growing practice), as these methods may damage the fobs.