GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Four times this year children in the Triad have been left in running cars when an opportunistic thief jumps in the driver’s seat taking the car and the child.
On April 3, 14-month-old Josea Petty was inside his father’s car when it was stolen at a Valero gas station in Greensboro.
The next month on May 7, an 8-month-old was left in the vehicle at Harbor Freight Tools in Asheboro when someone drove off with the baby inside.
Then on May 21, five-month-old Nora Grant was inside her mother’s car when it was stolen at a Marathon gas station in Greensboro.
The latest case happened at a Great Stops gas station on W. Market St. in Greensboro Monday night.
“I came out literally under 60 seconds the car was gone,” the mother told FOX8. “Freaking out wondering where in the world is my car with my child in it my child is in there.”
The mother said panic set in when her 11-month-old baby, Azlazial Ritter and her car was gone.
Greensboro Police confirmed the car was running and the doors were unlocked. The baby was asleep inside when someone hopped in and drove off.
“It doesn’t take a long amount of time for something to go wrong leaving a baby in a car,” said Sue Auriemma, the vice president of the Kids and Cars Safety organization. “You never want to wake a sleeping baby but you also never want to leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.”
Auriemma told FOX8 an incident can happen anywhere and sometimes when you least expect it. It could happen in a neighborhood or park but where it’s documented most of the time is at a gas station.
Kids and Cars Safety tracks these types of incidents across the country. There have been more than 200 this year.
“I believe what’s happening is that the car is taken by someone who intended to steal a car not realizing there’s a child in the vehicle,” Auriemma said. “What we see in many cases is the car is found later at a different location abandoned with the child in the car.”
In the most recent case, Ritter was found five miles away several hours later in High Point. Investigators said the car engine was still on and one of the doors was open.
The mother told FOX8 she’s thankful and will think twice the next time. “I don’t care if it’s one second, 30 seconds, just take your child and the keys,” she said. “You never know who’s watching you, you never know who’s watching anybody in the dark that you can’t see.”
Auriemma told FOX8, parents should always keep a watchful eye on their child and take steps to make it easier to stay in the car.
“We highly recommend that parents find where the drive-thru locations are,” Auriemma said. “Where are the restaurants where you can get a quick bite to eat with a drive-thru.”
She recommends paying for gas at the pump, opting for curbside delivery or making a plan with family members to watch your child while you run errands.