SIOUX CITY | It seems Toyota Highlanders get good gas mileage when they're in park.
On the evening of Jan. 1, a Siouxland man left his blue 2012 Highlander idling at 200 block of Court Street while he went into his business. When he came back, the car was gone.
The stolen SUV made it to the 1400 block of Tri View Avenue, where it was put in park and left running.
By Wednesday morning, employees of the nearby Telco Triad Community Credit Union thought it was odd the car had been idling for more than a day. So they called the police.
Bill Nice, detective with the Sioux City Police Department, said car thefts in general aren't uncommon in cold weather, when everyone wants to leave their vehicles running.
"It was taken in the typical fashion that we see this time of year," Nice said. "It was taken in a matter of a few seconds."
The SCPD believes they have apprehended the car thief, who they declined to identify. The suspect was arrested on Tuesday night in Sioux City in a vehicle that had been stolen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a week prior.
"Based on evidence we found last night, we're assuming he was involved with both vehicles," Nice said.
The Highlander has been returned to its owner, and the police department is continuing its investigation.
Unfortunately for the owner, after idling for a day and a half, the car was a little low on fuel.
"The gas light was on when we found it," Nice said. He added that the case was a little puzzling to investigators -- the car was on an odd cycle of running for several minutes and then shutting itself off, before restarting itself for unclear reasons.
Assuming the vehicle was running that way the whole time, this may account for its idling such a long time without running out of gasoline.
The case also illustrates a problem with remote key-fob start vehicles like the Highlander -- they don't all work the same way. Some models won't let the car move if the key fob isn't inside, others will only let the car move a certain distance -- but some can be driven "until it runs out of gas" even without the fob, Nice said.
Nice warned drivers of key-fob start vehicles to not assume their car is secure idling without the fob.
"It just depends on the make and model of the car," he said. "Don't think that your car's just going to shut off if the key fob's not in it."