BELFAST, Maine — Police in Belfast have some simple and sage advice: don't leave your keys in your unlocked vehicle! 

Deputy Chief Gerry Lincoln of the Belfast Police said three vehicles that were unlocked with the keys left in them were stolen Monday and Tuesday this week. 

"Unfortunately, [residents' sense of security] has been taken advantage of," said Lincoln.

This string of stolen cars has put the police on high alert.

"Monday morning we were notified early of a vehicle that was recovered actually in China," said Lincoln. "[The owners] weren't aware the vehicle was missing."

The first report of a stolen vehicle came on Sunday evening, Oct. 6. Another was reported on Monday morning, and yet a third on Tuesday morning. 

Police said the vehicles are varied - an SUV, a pickup truck and a sedan - but all were left unlocked in the downtown Belfast area with the keys in them. Police found one vehicle in a public parking spot in Belfast, one vehicle in China, and another in Palermo.

When "[the thieves are] done with the vehicle they just leave it wherever they happen to be at the time," added Lincoln.

"Sounds like kids going on joyrides to me," said William Gilliland, a Belfast resident of 2 years who used to live on Union Street, where one of the cars was stolen. "I personally do keep my car in a garage and I lock it up. It would be a very big setback for me to lose my car, of course."

All of the vehicles have been located and returned to their owners with minimal damage and nothing stolen from inside of the cars.

Lincoln said the thefts seem to be crimes of opportunity, so Belfast Police is asking the public to stop giving the thieves the opportunity.

"Leaving the car open, I don't know if that's asking for it to be stolen, but you can certainly do more than leaving the car open if you don't want that car stolen," added Gilliland. "You could lock it."

These incidents are still part of an ongoing investigation.

Police are following up on a few leads and trying to find the people involved in stealing the cars. 

Anyone with information concerning these incidents is asked to contact the Belfast Police Department at (207) 338-2040.

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