BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE – It’s the time of year when people are frantically going from store to store, picking out the latest iPod for brother Jim and the perfect blouse for mom.
It’s also the time thieves are busy taking things from the cars of harried shoppers to return them to the store for cash, to pawn, resell or use as a gift for someone on their own list.
It’s a problem police agencies county and statewide are already dealing with and thefts will only increase as the holidays draw near.
“There’s a certain number of people who will look in cars for anything they can steal,” said Centerville Assistant Police Chief Paul Child. “These thefts are usually fueled by drugs.”
The problem is an ongoing one, something police deal with year-round, but it gets worse as the holidays approach.
“It’s a story that needs to be told every year because it just keep happening,” Child said.
“Just yesterday, we had a report of people obviously looking in cars for things to take,” Child said on Nov. 8. In that case, the thieves were scared away.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” Child said. “Thieves are looking for something they can steal quickly.”
It’s not that hard for thieves to break a window without making much noise, reach in and take something.
“Nobody notices them. They act like they belong there (at the car),” Child said.
He warns those parking in lots to not leave valuables like purses, laptops or other electronics, or packages in plain view.
“That’s an advertisement and invitation for burglars to break into your car.,” Child said. “If you have to leave (packages) in your car, put them where they can’t be seen, preferably the trunk. It’s harder to get into,” he said. Even putting them in the trunk is no guarantee packages won’t be taken though, he said.
The important thing is to choose where you park in shopping areas, Child said.
“Choose your parking areas carefully, especially if it’s dark,” Child warns. “Park in well-lit areas and check to see how much activity there is in the lot.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t park away from other vehicles, Child said. In some ways, being away from other vehicles may be an advantage because if someone is hanging around your car, they’re more visible to others in the lot.
The same warnings can be applied to homes.
“Make it look like someone is home,” he said. “Burglars don’t want to go into a home if they think someone is there.”
Also, don’t place wrapped packages where they can easily be seen from a window.
To cut down on thefts, Child urges residents, “be nice to each other, look out for each other.”