published: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Sheriff warns residents to lock their cars - even in driveways
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - As the economy continues to dwindle, Highlands County Sheriff's officials are reporting an increase in car burglaries. They say many of these incidents are crimes of opportunity - so they are urging residents to remember and make certain they lock their vehicles.
Highlands County Sheriff's Office public information officer Nell Hayes said that many of the incidents had occured in the north end of the county, but that there had been no specific pattern or trend. She said thieves usually went "car fishing", meaning that theives go checking for open doors in search of small objects of high value such as GPS units, cell phones, iPods and the like. Other items many times left in vehicles include cash, credit cards and personal identification.
"They just open the vehicle doors and help themselves," Hayes said.
The burglaries generally come in "clusters", taking place in residential neighborhoods often with multiple occurrences and victims in the same night on the same streets.
"There's seldom one incident - it's typically two or more in any given location. We had a case the other night where there were three car burglaries on one street, then another just one street over," she said.
She said there generally was no vandalism and the thieves don't go to the effort of removing radios or other equipment, but items do go missing.
"Sometimes they can tell there are things moved around in the car, but nothing was taken," she said. "That's because they apparently didn't find what they were looking for."
Sheriff's officials have released a list of things residents can do to keep from becoming a victim;
- Lock your car - take your keys. Statewide, statistics indicate that almost 25 percent of vehicles stolen in Florida have the keys left in them. In addition, the vast majority of the car burglaries reported in Highlands County have no sign of forced entry - meaning the vehicles were not locked at the time of the burglary.
- Do not make your vehicle a desirable target by leaving personal items such as purse, wallet, coins, CD player, etc., in plain view in your vehicle. Take these items with you or store them in the trunk so that they are out of sight even when your car is parked at your home
- Instead of carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, it is recommended to keep it in a safe place at home, or in a safety deposit box.
- GPS devices, cell phones and iPods/Pads are some of the most popular items for thieves. If you have these items, do not leave them in the car when you park, even in your own driveway. Engraving an identifying number on the GPS unit, cell phone or computer will also make it easier to identify the unit if it is stolen and subsequently recovered. Use a unique number but not your Social Security or driver license number.
- Turn on the light in your driveway or car port. Statistics indicate that more than 50 percent of vehicle thefts occur at night and thieves usually prefer to work in the cover of darkness.
Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton reminds residents to always lock their vehicles and put valuables out of sight, even if they are on their own property or plan to be gone just a few minutes.
"These crimes are occurring in residential neighborhoods. Please, take your valuables inside and lock your car, even in your own driveway. Don't let yourself be a victim of crime!" she said
To assist deputies in solving crimes and to prevent further occurrences, sheriff's officials urge residents to call Central Dispatch at 402-7200 to report any suspicious activity that residents observe in their respective neighborhoods.
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