MOTORISTS are being urged to stay vigilant after cars were stolen as drivers defrosted their windscreens.
Police said all victims had left their car engines running, while some were even on the drive.
At 7.30am on Thursday, an Audi A5 was taken from a house in Fatfield, Washington, while at about 6.50am on Friday, a silver VW Passat was stolen from outside a house in Hillview, Sunderland.
At about the same time, thieves took a white Mercedes E Class from outside a house in Rickleton, Washington.
At about 8am yesterday, thieves stole an MGZT from outside a house in the Thornbridge area of Washington. None of the cars has been recovered.
A Vauxhall Insignia was also taken at about 10.30am last Wednesday outside an address in Easington Lane, after it had been left with the engine running while the owner delivered a parcel.
The vehicle was later recovered in the Durham area.
Inquiries into the thefts are ongoing but police are urging motorists to help them put a stop to this type of crime.
Sunderland Superintendent Jim Napier said: “Thieves are travelling around the Sunderland area early mornings and are taking advantage of the cold icy weather in order to steal cars.
“They are driving around housing estates and neighbourhoods looking for motorists that have left their cars running and unattended outside on their drives and in the streets. They are then simply taking their pick of the ones they want to steal.
“Inquiries into these thefts are ongoing and we are carrying out extra patrols in neighbourhoods in early mornings but this type of crime can be prevented by motorists. Do not leave your car running and with the keys in it at any time. Thieves only need seconds to make off with a running car.”
Officers in the Houghton area of Sunderland carried out an operation on Friday morning where they drove around estates and identified about 40 cars that had been left unattended and with the engine running.
In a number of instances the cars also had laptops, bags and other valuables left inside. In one instance a child was actually left in the back seat of one unattended car.
Officers spoke to the motorists and gave them crime prevention advice.