Friday, June 7, 2013

How to avoid being a victim of Charlotte's most prevalent crime.

The bad news is that criminals who break into cars and steal things are finding new and more sophisticated ways to victimize people. The good news, police say, is that thefts from autos are one of the most preventable crimes. 

Earlier today, police arrested two men for allegedly breaking into cars at the government plaza parking deck in the center city.  Last month, local police and federal authorities said they broke up an organized crime ring that stole checkbooks from cars, then used them to make phony deposits into the suspects' bank accounts. That means many people were victimized twice, first by broken windows and stolen goods, then later when money disappeared from bank accounts.

Last year, thefts from autos accounted for nearly one in every four crimes, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Crime Statistics. But police have long contended that people can "harden" themselves to these types of crimes. One officer told me he takes every thing out of his car when he leaves.  (I contended that a messy car practically lived in by, say, a reporter would make it hard for a thief to get in and out inconspicuously.)

The car break-in story is a bit more nuanced than that. For years, investigators didn't go to the scene of car break-ins because the crimes had such a low solve rate. Instead, the department fielded reports over the phone or via the Internet. I've taken a number of calls from people incensed that police didn't send someone to dust for fingerprints on their car. Car break-ins went down after Rodney Monroe became chief in 2009 and changed the policy. 

Through it all, police used public awareness campaigns to get car owners to turn their vehicles into less-desirable targets.  A few years back, police launched a television campaign encouraging people to take small, easily-pawned goods out of their car. They reiterated that advice before Memorial Day weekend, when thousands of visitors were expected in the city for race week.

Here are some of the better tips: 
  • Lock your car doors and windows 
  • Install removable electronics, such as CD players, that you can take with you when you leave.
  • Don't leave anything visible. Tempting items include small electronics, a purse or computer bag
  • Avoid putting valuables in the trunk once you arrive at your location. Some thieves watch parking lots waiting for victims to stow things, then break a window and pull the trunk release
  • Park in secured, well-lighted areas, or in a garage, if possible
  • Avoid GPS holders with suction cups. Even if the device isn't visible, the ring the devices leave on the window often signals to thieves that a GPS device is hidden inside. The same goes for a visible iPod cord or a cell phone charger.
--Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
 

21 comments:

  1. I have always left my car messy and it never gotten broken in. Then as soon as I decided to clean the car....Boom!! door locks and window broken. Guess the only reason they did not take the car was because it was a straight drive that they could not drive.

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  2. There is only one reason we have so many car break ins: Andrew Murray. Like his predecessor, Murray would rather spend time om the golff course than do his job. These two arrest for multiple break ins will see them all consolidated into one minor crime without even asking for it, then they will be given no jail time and community service that they will never do. There is no deterrent in out local justice system.

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  3. "low solve rate" is no excuse for the police to not come out and file a report in person. if nothing else, it lets you know that they're at least doing something about it (or makes you think they are).
    when i lived uptown on 7th street my car got broken into twice...2 blocks away from the police station. you can't tell me they didn't have 15 minutes to come out and investigate the scene.
    i'm sure my boss would love it if i only did the work that was easy and not the hard stuff like checking out a car break-in...

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  4. "Some thieves watch parking lots waiting for victims to stow things, then break a window"...had the same thing happen to me in 2008. Except, I didn't get out of the car, I stowed some stuff under the seat. So much for "don't leave anything visible".

    And no officer would/could come to take a report or 'dust for fingerprints'. I finally got called by a detective TWO WEEKS LATER, who said my case had been misfiled. Whatever. They never caught anyone.

    The broken window was as much of a problem as anything else.

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  5. I hate commenting through Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Maybe a nice map showing where all the breakins occur would help.

    If nothing else, then citizens could be more watchful and report suspicious behavior and
    help catch some of these criminals.

    I hate Facebook, too...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can map crimes in your community at CMPD's website, www.cmpd.org.

      Delete
  7. The problem with mapping the break-ins is that they occur all over the city. Some areas are hot-spots for the crimes -- apartments near UNC-Charlotte, the parking lot of any large retail store or mall -- but there's no part of the city that's immune. We publish a weekly crime map that may provide some insight though: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/657/

    -Cleve

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a big fan of telling stories with data pictures. The Observer map is an OK start but it needs to be developed more. People should be able to expand it and drill down into a particular area. I want to know: does my neighborhood have more crime than others? Are the types of crime in my neighborhood different than those in other places?

      Delete
  8. I'm just going to put my pet boa constrictor in the car...and let them fend for themselves

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They'd just steal that too.

      Delete
  9. "AnonymousJune 7, 2013 at 4:36 PMI hate commenting through Facebook."
    ____________
    Day 2.5 of Facebook-only comments and they are officially boring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The story on unemployment would normally have hundreds o comments, and thus hundreds o page views. Today it has 2. Page views will be cut 90%, and thus ad revenue will drop. What fool made this decision?

      Delete
  10. Dusting and collecting fingerprints on the OUTSIDE of the car are useless. It is NOT illegal for your prints to be on the OUTSIDE of a car. Hope this helps...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I left a perfectly valid comment about how someone can steal a checkbook and write and deposit a check to themselves without being traced and it gets deleted? F you, Observer. What little I do post since the facebook turnover will now go to zero posts and zero visits to this site. Click through that, morons.

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  12. Suggestion #4 is the reason so many people that have Conceal Carry permits do not go to restaurants or retail stores that have 'No Weapons" signs posted they only place to store one out of sight is the trunk. Someone commented some months ago about the barbecue restaurant on S. Blvd near the Park and Ride that had the No Weapons sign that is now closed. The comment was about thieves watching from the hill behind the restaurant and that when putting anything in the trunk, their car was broken into. Just as the story on the front page about the killings in California, a place that has strict 'No Guns' laws, things would have been different had someone confronted the gunman just as if someone had confront the thieves at the barbecue place on S. Blvd. It's a shame that society has come to the point that no one is safe anywhere and property is not safe anywhere. When I was growing up one could leave car doors open with stuff on the seats and in the glove compartments, leave windows and doors open or unlocked during the hot summer nights and not worry about thieves. What has changed? I suggest the mentality of the courts and the police and the people that are now doing the crimes being raised by mostly only a mother that has to work to put food on the table. So many factors but everything in life is so different from what it was in my younger years. I blame so much of it on the politicians and something I just read in my email, hopefully has been read by the NSA too tells me so much of the WHY!

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  13. What's Facebook ?

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  14. I have witnessed thieves stealing from cars, esp. in parks. Frequently they have a lookout on a bike and text their buddy if cops are coming. The lookout is almost always an adult, the thief a kid. That way if the kid gets caught, hardly any time is done. Usually they have oversized clothes to fit the goods in. Wearing a coat in summer is a clue! The most effective solution is high resolution cameras AND frequent patrols by police. Bike cops are the best because they can sneak up without being seen or heard. Unfortunately even 'normal' people steal. Those are the hardest to catch as they blend right in. Crazy human trait selfishness. I witnessed a well dressed mom and daughter Thursday stealing deodorant from Walmart at the ARboretum yesterday. Reported it to the clerk in the next aisle, but don't know if they caught them.

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  15. I have better tips:

    Drive a junker. The tax value on my car is $570.

    Don't lock your doors. Perhaps they will just open the door, instead of smashing our your window.

    Have enough trash/foodwrappers/etc in the floor that they would not even want to paw through it.

    Keep a gun in the truck, preferably stainless steel, and take the other one you carry with you 24/7 with you when you exit the vehicle.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete