AUSTIN, Texas — Austin police are trying to combat a spike in auto thefts from 2017 to 2018 that happened at a time when property crime overall remained steady. 

Police statistics show car thefts rose 17 percent, from 2,003 to 2,348, between 2017 and 2018. 

September saw the biggest year-over-year increase, when the number went from 151 in 2017 to 238 in 2018.

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Police said many of the crimes had something in common: The owner of the cars left the keys inside -- sometimes in the ignition. 

Detective Sean Lott said the community should be concerned about the increase. 

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"What we see oftentimes when cars are stolen, they are used in other crimes," Detective Lott said. "So, they will steal a car and go joyriding and break into other cars...So, there is often an escalation connected to car thefts."

Lott said years ago, stealing a car took special skill, requiring thieves to often be able to "hotwire" the engine. He said that often made certain make and models of cars vulnerable to thieves. 

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Officials said they have identified mopeds, particularly in West Campus, as one vehicle type that appears to be a frequent target. 

In the first three quarters of 2018, police received 79 moped report -- 40 of which were from the campus area. 

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