Prevent holiday theft. Advice courtesy of the Durham, NC PD.

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Ahhhh…the year is almost up and the holidays are approaching fast…and so are the bad guys! I’m sure that most of you have noticed the increased postings on the listserv when it comes to break-ins to vehicles. Some of you are unfortunate enough to have become victims. Every year about this time, break-ins and robberies increase…you shop for the holidays…they shop for the holidays. Cars get broken into in the neighborhoods and in parking lots. It’s time to put out a bit of information that might help you get through all of this mess unscathed. Sit back and grab a drink…this might take a minute.

I constantly get the question “What do you think Sgt. Gunter…should I wear white after Labor Day? Not even at my funeral…Fashion Citation issued!
Now, when it comes to vehicle break-ins, a lot of people ask “Should I lock my car up and risk damage and theft or… leave it unlocked and just risk theft?
Pretty good question. The Police Department recommends that you always lock your vehicle. These doodle doos are looking for the big easy…a crime of opportunity mostly. They walk by and look inside, check door handles…if it’s locked; they generally just go to the next one until they find one that’s unlocked. It takes very little time to wiggle a door and it’s attracts hardly any attention at all. A locked vehicle on the other hand requires more effort. Smashing the window, ripping the lock…whatever way they enter, makes noise and takes time. It increases the chances of getting caught. When they find a neighborhood that most folks consistently leaves their doors unlocked, they spread the word rather quickly.
They have one thing in common….they are lazy…and they don’t want confrontation. Well, that’s two things, but I put it in one sentence so it counts. Now, I know that some of you are saying “I’d rather leave it unlocked and deal with missing change than a $200 repair!” Well I can’t fault you there! I understand the line of thinking, nobody have “extra money” to shell out. When it comes down to the wire…whatever that means…it’s your decision to make. I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong or right. It’s your car…it’s your decision.
Any who…lets take a look at what you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting ripped off. It’s pretty easy to thwart the thieves…take away the prize. “Thwart the thieves”… say that 10 times fast. These guys are window shopping in your neighborhood and we tend to make it easy for them….really easy…just like I just made you say “thwart the thieves” 10 times fast? You know you did…admit it.
Repeat after me…”I will NOT leave my stuff in the car where everybody can see it.”
I constantly see cars parked in neighborhoods and parking lots with purses on the seat, money in the console, iPODS, you name it. If I notice it…don’t you think the criminals will too?
I saw an unlocked car the other night with an iPOD in the console. I downloaded “Hee Haws Greatest Christmas Songs” on it…10,000 times…and then put it back. Can’t wait till they turn it on. “What the…?”
What’s the best self defense? Plain COMMON SENSE! It doesn’t matter if it’s just some pocket change, consider it temptation. Take a few extra seconds and take out your belongings. If you can’t take it with you, toss it in the trunk. Please take note…this does not apply to husbands who do not want to go inside the store with you. It’s dark in the trunk…they’ll be scared.

Ok…we just covered the biggie, now let’s go down the list and hit the other stuff.

Always lock you doors and roll up the windows all the way. “I was only going to be inside for a minute” doesn’t cut it. Leave it down and unlocked and your asking for trouble.

“Purse, cell phones, CDs, etc. should be kept out of sight. If you can look at it and say “It would kill me if this was stolen…then don’t leave it in the car at all.”

High dollar accessories (radios, speakers, laptops, etc.) should be engraved with your first, middle initial and last name and drivers license number (NCOL#12345) . The number never changes.

CD’s. “Sarge…my CD’s got stolen. I had 2 thousand dollars worth of Britney Spears CD’s!! I can’t engrave those!” Hold on money bags…use a Permanent Sharpie and mark the CD’s with youNCOL# right across the label. Then take that same sharpie and mark “I listen to crappy music” right across your forehead.”
Please let the Officer know if it’s Frank Sinatra CD’s. We’ll call out the helicopters, set up roadblocks and notify the FBI immediately. I’m pretty sure this is a law.

Don’t park beside big ol trucks. Those monsters offer great concealment for the bad guy to do his thing.

Stereos with that handy removable faceplate. “Removable” means REMOVE them! Don’t leave them on the radio. Don’t hide them in the car under the floor mat. REMOVE them from the car to the inside of your house. It’s not like its big and heavy….unless you listen to heavy metal. If that’s the case, just toss it in the trash, probably no good anyhow.

Alarm systems. If you have one, use it! Systems with the little blinking light visible to the outside of the car work great. That little flashing light is a great deterrent. They’ll generally pass your up for a car that doesn’t blink at em. It’s called “The blinky light theory.” Bet Santa’s sleigh never got broke into….ask Rudolph…he nose. Get it? Nose? Knows? I just kill myself sometimes!

Garages….ohhh… I love garages! It’s like the ultimate in “Man Cave Luxury.” If you have one, try parking your car in it…and lock the garage! Out of sight, out of mind. Sound familiar? “Sarge…that husband of mine has ours so full of stuff that we can’t hardly walk thru it, much less park a car in it!”
Well now, sounds like you need to snap the whip and get him off his duff. Start him to cleaning! Think how nice it would be to park in a nice warm garage…safe…cozy.
Note: Things do not work this way in my humble abode. I crack the whip, wear the pants and direct all things that should be directed. Is that okay for me to say sweetie pie?”

Big Winter Biggie…warming up the car. Everybody hates getting into a cold car. When the temperatures drop, vehicle thefts rise. Several of you warm the car up while you’re inside getting ready. Yahoo’s walk up and say “Hey….would you look at that…free car!” Make sure, if you must do this, have a spare key and at least lock the car up while it’s running. We do not really suggest that you let it run unattended anyhow….not to mention that it’s bad for the environment, waste gas and against the law.

Fingerprints… got to love those fingerprints! Why don’t we print every car that’s been broken into? Several reasons actually. We don’t get as many fingerprints from cars as we’d like these days. The plastic textured surfaces won’t hold a print well at all. Everybody uses Armor All and the like on the inside like it’s going out of style. Everything is so slick…even the slick slides off. Makes a great print…but we cant lift it. The owner goes in and checks for all the stuff missing before we get there. Contaminates the scene. Windows are broken out, condensation forms on the inside of the car. Another printscrewer upper. This aint CSI and I aint Horatio Caine. He’s not as nearly as handsome as I am.

Keys…that reminds me…house keys…everybody has a hidden key somewhere around the house. We commonly get calls to check on elderly folks who aren’t answering the door. Do we kick the door in? Nah…we just find the “hidden key”. It usually takes a whole 30 seconds as it’s always close by. Quit hiding it, you might as well hang it on a nail beside the door. If I can find your house key within seconds, the criminals can too.
“Oh but I have this fancy schmancy fake rock I put mine in!”
“You sure do, I found it…the only fake looking rock in the flower bed. I stole it too…”
Best bet is it to get a combination key vault, available at ye olde local hardware store. About 30 bucks. Install that turkey. It’s small, convenient and very difficult to break into.

When it comes down to it, most of this is common sense stuff. You can leave your doors unlocked with all your gadgets inside if you’d rather, but unless you have an ninja pygmy with a poison dart and a blow gun ready to jump out of the glove box…chances are you going be the next victim of the Grinch.

Last but not least…when someone does break in, MAKE A REPORT! Even if it’s just some pocket change, the reports let us know that your area is experiencing a rise in crime and we can respond to it. The technical Police term is “Callimus Copamus.” Too many times I see a slew of B&E’s reported on the List Serv, but only one or two actually have reported it. If it aint reported…it never happened.

Ho Ho Ho!!

Sgt. D. Gunter
Durham Police Department
District 2 HEAT
(919) 560-4582 ext. 29252

“Be Alert…The World Needs More Lerts!”