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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vehicle Burglaries on the Rise - Especially Around Ogden Valley

From a Facebook post by the Weber County Sheriff's Office
Vehicle burglaries are a serious problem in Weber County. To put matters into prospective, there were 2,896 cases of larceny from a motor vehicle reported last calendar year in all Weber County Jurisdictions. Unincorporated Weber County (not cities) accounted for 59 of these. This year, we have had 47 cases to date and we’re barely past the ½ way point. The same time period last year saw 39 cases, which adds up to a 20% increase.

Vehicle burglary comes in two main flavors. Most vehicle burglaries are night time residential thefts where no force is employed. These are referred to as “car hopping” by the juveniles who are the primary offenders. The victims mistakenly believe their possessions are safe in their unlocked car while it’s parked in front of their home. The thieves often work in groups, walking down both sides of a residential street and checking for unlocked car doors. If they find one, they look for money, small electronics, CDs, and financial documents like checks and credit cards. The thieves can drive to a neighborhood, or simply walk around the one they live in. This Spring, the western part of Weber County suffered a large number of vehicle burglaries by what appeared to be two rings of young adults. They would identify a likely target and one of them would run up and check the doors while the others remained in the getaway vehicle. Detectives eventually identified the suspects involved and some have been charged.

The second type of vehicle burglary has been a problem at Weber County recreation areas for years, including the Pineview beaches and mountain trailheads. There have been 25 vehicle break-ins in Ogden Canyon and the Ogden Valley that have been reported since June first, all in areas with free parking. In this scenario, the thieves arrive by vehicle. After cruising a parking area to make sure there are no witnesses, a thief will get out, look in the vehicle for purses or electronics, and break a window to get them. There have been a number of cases over the years where the thieves were in such a hurry windows were broken on unlocked vehicles. These thieves often target financial cards and immediately proceed to gas stations or stores where they can use them before the theft is discovered. A single theft involving a computer, phone, and wallet or purse can result in well over a thousand dollars in losses and property damage. The time on scene for this type of theft can be less than one minute if only one vehicle is targeted.

Vehicle burglary continues to be a problem because it’s an easy crime to commit and hard to solve. While serial vehicle burglars usually get caught in the long run, they may get away with dozens of thefts before that happens. When they’re prosecuted it’s rarely for felony charges, unless they’re caught using stolen checks or credit cards. Regardless, they are only charged for what the police can prove they did. This amounts to the tip of the ice burg for professional thieves. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office, US Forest Service, and Ogden City Police are actively pursuing new ways of identifying and catching vehicle burglars and we’ve had some success, however people can take a few simple steps to significantly reduce the chance they will become a victim.

• NEVER leave valuable items in your car where they can be seen. Over the years law enforcement has taken reports for things like high end jewelry, large sums of cash, firearms, and laptop computers left in vehicles for no particularly good reason. When parking overnight, remove valuable items that don’t need to be left in your car. Items that you may normally use in your car, like GPS units and iPods, should be locked in your console or trunk if you’re not going remove them. Just remember, if it’s there it can be stolen.

• Don’t take valuable property you don’t need with you to the lake or hiking trail. If you aren’t going to be using it that day, it doesn’t need to leave your house. Get an appropriate backpack or carry bag for your phone and wallet and don’t leave them in your car. If you forget and bring something you’re going to leave in your car, lock it in your trunk and disable the remote trunk access. Even an empty purse could get your window smashed.

• Go through your glove box and remove old mail, checks, your vehicle Title (it should be stored someplace safe), and other items that don’t need to be in your car.

• Lock your doors. I’ve talked to people that have old cars who routinely leave them unlocked on the grounds that they don’t leave anything valuable, and they’d rather not have a broken window. If the only thing in your car is lint this may work but otherwise you’re better off helping people stay honest.

• When you’re walking away from your car turn around and look at it from the point of view of the thief. You want your car to scream, “There is nothing valuable here to steal!” The passenger compartment should look like a rental car waiting to be sent out.

• Watch for and report suspicious individuals. Juveniles who appear to be wandering from driveway to driveway late at night should be reported to the police. Most jurisdictions have nighttime curfews for juveniles. If you’re at a trailhead and you observe an older vehicle with two or more occupants, who drive in and then leave without parking, write down the license plate and pass it along to your local police department. If you see an individual breaking into a car call 911 and try to get the license plate of the vehicle they arrived/departed in. Remember, the police need good information to work with to solve crimes. What you shouldn’t do is turn yourself from a witness in a property crime into a victim of a person crime. If you force a bad guy to go through you to get away there’s a good chance he’ll try.

• Last, but not least, take advantage of all those programs out there that let you do a home inventory on your phone, computer, or iPad. Get the serial numbers and model numbers recorded so that if you do get ripped off there is some hope of getting your stuff back. Without that, there is virtually no chance you’ll see your stolen property again.

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