This story sounds very familiar because it once happened to me.

A Crime of Opportunity

A car was stolen Wednesday morning and the Grand Junction Police Department says the keys to the car were left in the ignition in the unlocked car overnight. The owner of the vehicle discovered it missing in the morning and reported it to the police. Within an hour of the report the vehicle was found and a suspect was arrested.

According to Grand Junction Police, the suspect admitted to officers he had been looking in car windows and came upon this car with the keys in the ignition, so he took it. There was no report of damage to the car, but the keys were missing, and a sign was damaged. The suspect is facing multiple charges.

Of course, the first thought most people have about this is, why would someone leave their keys in the ignition in an unlocked car? Most people would never do that, but,  unfortunately, it does happen. In fact, it happened to me once and I learned my lesson the hard way.

It Happened To Me

I was a college student in Springfield, Missouri when my car was stolen while I was at my girlfriend's apartment. It was about 1:30am and I needed to get back to campus before the 2:00am curfew. I said goodbye to my girlfriend and went outside - only to discover my car was missing. Yes, I had left the car unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition. What in the world was I thinking? I'm an idiot.

I reported the stolen vehicle to police and the next day they located my car - which had been in an accident and nearly totaled. Not only had the car been wrecked, but they found stolen merchandise inside the car - including 8-track tapes and stereo speakers. The car had been abandoned and there was no suspect -- except for me.

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False Accusation and Misidentification

The next day I was asked to go down to the police station. A man doing neighborhood watch had supposedly seen the car leaving the apartment and the description of the driver he gave to police matched mine. At the police station, standing face to face with the man, he pointed his finger at me and said "That's him. That's the one." That might be the first time in my life I ever used the words "are you kidding me?"

Based upon this man's identification of me, I was promptly charged with careless and imprudent driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and giving false information to the police. I ended up having to hire a lawyer for $500, went to court, and, ultimately had the charges dropped when the judge determined I had been falsely accused.

A Lesson Learned

That was more than 35 years ago, and I can tell you I haven't left my keys in an unlocked vehicle since. In fact, I never leave my vehicle unlocked - ever. I learned a very hard lesson, but, I learned it well. I have a feeling the victim in Wednesday's car theft has learned a tough lesson as well. Hopefully, our stories can help someone else avoid a similar fate.

LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving

To find out more about how has the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (released in April 2020), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2020 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.