CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Following a surge in neighborhood car thefts, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is starting a new initiative to combat this type of crime.

"People case the neighborhood for a couple days and they know somebody starts their car at 6 or 6:30 a.m., every morning," said Johnathan Frisk, a CMPD Crime Prevention Specialist.

It's a bad habit that police say if you don't kick your car, it could end up in the wrong hands.

"Shocked," said Malik Williams, a north Charlotte resident. "Maybe I was still asleep or maybe it was a dream."

Sunday morning for Malik Williams was a dream turned into a nightmare. He was in his car when he realized he forgot something. Malik started his car but then ran back inside.

"My car was gone," Williams said. "I was in shock. I literally sat right there in front of the garage and looked around."

The spot where Malik saw his car now serves as a harsh reminder.

"Don't leave your car unattended," Williams said. "Point blank, period."

Police say with the temperatures dropping, this type of crime is really heating up. Over the weekend, several parked cars that were running and left unattended were stolen.

Since December 1, there have been at least 60 cars reported stolen, according to CMPD. More than half were from neighborhoods.

Now as more people are eager to warm up their cars ahead of time, CMPD says they're giving the bad guys a golden opportunity.

"Probably one of the easiest when they're left unattended and people come outside to get in their car and 15 to 20 minutes later, when you come out, it could be long gone," Frisk said.