TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A college student woke up to find her car missing from her apartment complex in Tuscaloosa. Police said they investigated more than 300 reports of stolen cars last year.
Sydney Gemmill said she immediately knew something was missing.
"I grabbed my keys off the hook upstairs and came down and didn't see my car," Gimmell said, "I was really shocked. I couldn't believe my car was stolen."
At least two groups of people have been caught stealing cars, according to Lieutenant Teena Richardson. Richardson said many of them were teenagers.
The suspects got into Gemmill's car and drove off with a valet key.
"There's a better way to secure those types of belongings than leave them in the glove box," Richardson said.
Most people don't think about it, but police said leaving extra keys in the car puts you at a higher risk of losing it.
Richardson said criminals often try push-to-start buttons. If the car starts, they take off.
"You're not going to get away with it forever."
Gemmill's car was found days later, abandoned on the other side of town.
"Everything was covered in ash. There was a bunch of trash and bricks," Gemmill said.
The inside was trashed, but she's still considering herself lucky.
"It's kind of one of those things you never think would happen to you," Gemmill said, "I was so lucky I didn't have my backpack or laptop, or anything in my car."
Breaking into or stealing a car is considered a felony offense.