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DALLAS -- After the temperatures plunged recently, Labrandon Hill started each day with a kind gesture for his wife. He would bundle up and face freezing temperatures in the predawn darkness to start his wife s car in their driveway.

So it could be warm when my wife got in, he explained.

It s their only car, and he would drive her to work before beginning his shift as a forklift operator. But while standing in the driveway Thursday morning, he made a snap decision.

I was cold, so I went in the house, he said.

Yet when he stepped back inside their Pleasant Grove home, he almost immediately knew something was wrong.

I heard my car door close, Hill, 32, said. He said he'd only been away from the car for about 30 seconds, I didn t even have a chance to get all the way into the house.

He stepped outside to see his wife s white Mazda sedan speeding away.

I didn t have a car to chase them with, he said.

It happens time and again during cold snaps. Drivers decide between leaving the car running to stay warm or face the risk - however remote - of having their car stolen.

For George Newton, 48, it was gamble he lost.

I didn t think nobody would take it, he said.

He left his girlfriend s silver Nissan Altima idling Thursday morning for just a few moments outside their South Dallas apartment.

She asked me to leave it running, because it s cold outside, he said. I thought it would still be there.

A few minutes after walking into their apartment, someone jumped in and drove away, stealing Terrelle Felix car -- on her birthday, no less. Still, she s grateful that s all the thief took.

He could have hurt him, she said. It could have been a real bad ordeal.

News 8 found that at least three cars left idling unattended were stolen within 12 hours in Dallas between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. At least 14 cars total were stolen over those two days in the city, but police reports did not explain the circumstances behind the thefts in many of those cases.

Dallas police didn't answer questions or provide statistics about the thefts. Yet police generally discourage people from leaving their cars unattended while running.

Hill said he s learned a lesson. His insurance doesn t cover theft, so for now, his family is relying on his grandmother s car. He still plans to warm it up for his wife, but will be sure to stand guard now.

I know not to leave my car running, he said. They had to be pretty bold to do something like that.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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