Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Put the Brakes on Car Break-ins

by Christina London

Imagine being home alone one night when you glance out the window and see someone breaking into your roommate's car. Would you know what to do? This is exactly what happened to Ohio University senior Emily Edwards last November. This winter, Athens area Crime Solvers report a significant increase of car break-ins at homes and businesses along East State Street. Edwards, who lives on East State, says she never expected this to happen.

OU senior Emily Edwards describes the night she witnessed someone attempt to break into her roommate's car.

What To Do
After spotting the intruder, Edwards turned on the house lights and scared the man away. We asked Athens City Police Lieutenant Randy Gray about confronting a thief. Gray says shouting at the person could prevent immediate damage, but it makes it harder for police to eventually nab the crook. "The quieter you are, the more likely we're able to catch them," Gray says.

Gray also says citizen involvement is key to catching car thieves. "We [the Athens Police Department] don't have enough eyes and ears every place to catch them in the act," the lieutenant says. If people see any suspicious behavior, he urges them to call APD immediately.

Lieutenant Randy Gray explains the proper procedure to follow if your car is robbed.

Don't Be A Victim
Even if you have to park outside, there are ways to protect your car from theft.

  • Lock your doors. Gray says 90% of the break-ins he sees are "crimes of opportunity." This means owners leave their cars unlocked, and thieves simply open the door. Also, most insurance companies don't cover theft if the car was left unlocked.

  • Hide your valuables. Place laptops, GPSs and other electronics under the seat and out of plain sight. Or better yet, don't leave them in the car at all.

  • Don't leave money on the console, including change. Last week, APD arrested a man who made his living by stealing spare change in cars.

  • Park in a well-lighted area.

  • Keep your car clean. Criminals will rummage through a messy car to find anything of value.

  • Make your car look as though it's being driven, even if it's not. Dust off the snow, and check on your car often.

  • Record the brand, model and serial number of all electronics installed in your car. That way, the items can be returned to you if recovered.

  • Buy a detachable faceplate for your stereo, and remove it whenever you park your car.

What They Steal
Thieves will take whatever they can get their hands on, but these are the top items stolen from cars:

1. Stereos
2. Purses
3. CDs
4. Laptops
5. Wallets

Source: Concord Police Department

Additional Resources
Fast Facts About Car Thefts
Ohio University Police Department

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