Police from South Hams are warning drivers not to leave their vehicles unattended with the keys still in the ignition.
Officers say a local scam, which involves a gang of people driving around looking for unattended vehicles, usually delivery vans, knowing there is a possibility of the driver having left the keys in the ignition while making a delivery.
“They will steal the vehicle in a matter of seconds and make their getaway while the driver is making a delivery” said Sgt David Green.
The most likely places to be targeted are industrial and trading estates, town centre businesses and private deliveries made elsewhere by van.
The police team are appealing to all drivers to take their keys with them every time they leave their vehicle, no matter how brief the stop may be.
“It would literally take around ten seconds for someone to jump into a driving seat and drive off with a vehicle and its contents” said Sgt Green.
He added “I would be concerned for the potential consequences if a delivery driver returned to his van and tried to stop a thief from getting away. Equally, the road safety implications of stolen vehicles being driven off at high speed are clear.
If anyone has any information connected to these crimes, please telephone Devon and Cornwall Police on Tel: 101 or Crimestoppers (anonymously) on Tel: 0800 444 111.