Editor's Note: Updated at 2 p.m. with more details about stolen vehicle and the suspect.
A car with a 3-year-old girl inside was stolen in front of a couple’s Artesia home earlier today, but a concerned citizen found the toddler safe and unharmed standing on a nearby sidewalk a short time later, authorities said.
The parents of the child reported the theft of their silver 1993 Honda Accord about 6:15 a.m. Wednesday in the 18000 block of Elaine Avenue, said Lt. Minh Dinh of the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station, which serves the cities of Artesia, Bellflower, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood and Paramount.
Dinh said the mother was preparing to drop her children off at the babysitter and school. With the keys in the ignition and the car running, the woman secured the toddler in the carseat, went inside the home to retrieve another child, but returned outside only to discover that the vehicle and girl were gone.
Less than five minutes after deputies arrived at the scene, a passerby approached carrying the toddler, who was found safe and unharmed.
“There was a concerned citizen who saw this little girl crying on the sidewalk –- on Ashworth Street a couple blocks away,” Dihn said, adding that the citizen asked the girl where she lived and then spotted a deputy nearby.
Child Tells Deputies The Car Thief Was A Woman
The car thief apparently had dropped off the child curbside and then kept going. Dinh said the toddler told deputies that the driver was a woman.
The two-door Honda Accord has a sunroof and is identifiable by a dent in the
hood, according to the sheriff's station. The car bears the license plate number 6MXW025.
The female suspect who is described as white and overweight, with black hair, remain at large as of about noon, according to the station.
Anyone with information on the vehicle or the suspect is asked to call the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station at (562) 623-3500.
Avoiding Crimes of Opportunity
Dinh said it was fortunate that the child was unharmed and reunited with her parents, but he stressed the importance not allowing similar “crimes of opportunity” to happen.
“This type of crime is one of opportunity and when you leave a car unattended with keys in the ignition you are inviting troubled,” he said. “People will take the opportunity to break into a vehicle, so you certainly don't want to leave a child inside the car -- that's something we obviously don't want.”
“As a parent myself, it’s a parents’ nightmare … I’m sure these parents were so worried,” he added. “Luckily this situation turned out well. A vehicle can always be replaced, but with children we always need to be careful.”
- With reporting from City News Service