Two east Bronx neighborhoods have been getting hit with a rash of car break-ins and thefts.
While overall crime is down in the 45th Precinct, stolen vehicles and stolen contents are tilting the numbers, cops say.
Both heavily residential Country Club and Waterbury-LaSalle neighborhoods have been hardest hit.
Capt. James McGeown, the precinct’s commanding officer, has been urging local residents to take precautions to protect their vehicles – including using common sense in locking them.
McGeown said that two precinct sectors covering those neighborhoods have seen an increase in auto thefts and thefts of such items as iPads, laptops, sneakers, credit cards, tools, and car mirrors.
Starting in March and through the beginning of April, he said thieves have driven off with seven vehicles, as well as eight inciddents where expensive tires and rims have been stolen from late model vehicles. Seven other vehicles have been broken into and items stolen.
“A lot of this happens on the midnight tours, so we moved some extra resources to the midnights,” said McGeown. “We have a midnight conditions team so we had them concentrating in the area, and I moved one of my anti-crime teams to that area.”
He noted that in the past week or so, there have been no car thefts reported.
One of the most serious problems, he said, is that in at least five of the seven cases where cars were stolen, the owners left their keys inside.
In one cases, a thief stole a valet key from inside a glove box of a 2014 Honda CRV that the owner did not realize was even inside, he said. But other times, people leave keys inside their vehicles either by accident or purposefully.
He also noted another phenomena: “If they have two cars, they are leaving the keys for one of the cars inside of the other one, and thieves are stealing them that way.”
Earlier in the year, there was even a case of a thief who had stolen a car that had keys belonging to another car from the same household returning later to drive off with the other car.
What you can do
Other than not keeping valuables inside vehicles, McGeown urged vehicle owners to be vigilant because many car thieves just walk through the community feeling car handles to see if they are unlocked.
“Most of these guys stealing cars do not want to make a lot of noise,” said McGeown. “These guys basically walk around the neighborhood feeling car door handles. So if you see someone suspicious, call us and we will check them out.”
One family living on Country Club Road recently had one of their cars ransacked, said Country Club Civic Association president Marcia Pavlica.
They awoke in the morning to find loose change and other items missing from a car, and to their astonishment, the door left wide open, she said.
While they were concerned about the crimes, Pavlica said break-ins of this sort had become increasingly rare.
Community Board 10 chairman John Marano echoed the police department’s concerns.
“People feel safe around here, and that is a great feeling,” he said. “But this can happen anywhere, not just in the Bronx.”
Marano said that it is one thing for someone to forget their keys in the car, but if they are leaving their cars running in front of their house to run inside for 30 seconds, or leaving keys inside their vehicles, they are setting themselves up to be victims.