Lock your cars and keep your valuables elsewhere.
That’s the message from the 49th Precinct to local residents amid a recent spike in car break-ins.
Deputy Inspector Lorenzo (Andy) Johnson said he began noticing an increase in reported car break-ins at the end of 2013.
There since have been 50 reported car break-ins reported and five arrests between Jan. 1 and March 3 in the precinct, said Community Affairs Officer Jay Sturdivant.
The precinct coverage area runs from Van Nest through Morris Park and Pelham Parkway north to Allerton, Pelham Gardens and Laconia.
Lock and take
Sturdivant, who said the crimes have spread throughout the borough, urged drivers to remember to lock their cars and keep their valuables out of sight.
Johnson said it was important not to park a car in desolate areas, but rather try to find places with lights, cameras, or lots of people around.
“It’s a crime of opportunity,” Sturdivant said.
Johnson said the precinct is working with the narcotics unit to combat the problem because many break-ins are done by drug users. While some sell what they steal for drug money, Johnson said more and more are by-passing the pawn shops, which must document all items, opting instead to trade the electronics directly for drugs.
The officers compile information from the reports into a database to help identify and target those who have gotten away with break-ins.
The precinct is also using bait cars to try and lure thieves into situations where they can be arrested.
“We’re doing as much as we possibly can to combat it,” said Sturdivant.
But Johnson said that it is very difficult to make an arrest because an officer can’t arrest someone just for entering someone else’s car. They have to catch the perpetrator “red-handed and full-pocketed,” Johnson said.
But even if the precinct can’t easily make an arrest, they can identify and target those who are known to break into cars, Johnson said. The community can also help by keeping an eye out for odd behavior around cars.
Johnson said that rarely do break-ins come with broken windows, and that most thieves check the cars door handles to find ones that have been left unlocked or can easily be broken.
“If you see something, say something,” said Johnson, advising people to call 911 or the precinct when they believe someone is trying to break into cars.