By BOB KAPPSTATTER
Lock it or lose it.
That’s the word going out from police to east Bronx car owners finding their in-plain-sight valuables lifted from their unlocked cars.
Thefts from vehicles in the 45th Precinct covering Throggs Neck, Westchester Square and Co-op City have soared in the past few months, thanks in no small part to thieves preying on careless drivers who make their vehicles targets of opportunity by leaving valuables on the seats and their doors unlocked.
Over the most recent 28-day period, larcency thefts from autos were up 52%.
Eleven of the 38 thefts over the 28 days were for valuables worth more than $1,000, worthy of grand larcency charges, while 27 were petit larcenies.
So far this year, thefts from autos were up 58%, with 179 incidents reported so far, compared to 113 recorded for the same time last year.
Besides four GPS units, 22 other items were stolen from inside vehicles since the start of the year.
“We’re reaching out to make citizens aware of the problem, telling them to not leave items on car seats and being sure to lock their doors, even if they’re briefly running into a store,” said precinct Capt. James McGeowan.
“People are leaving wallets and handbags, iPads and other electronic gear on the seats, he said, noting that one local woman recently lost $23,000 worth of jewelry from her unlocked Cadillac.
“We have perps just walking the streets trying door handles to see if they’re open.”
One commander at Brooklyn’s 76th Precinct recently took upon himself to have his community affairs officer walk around the Carroll Gardens brownstone neighborhood with a camera, taking pictures of valuables left on car seats, then run the owner’s license plate and either personally visit them or send a letter with the picture, asking them to be more aware. Since then, larcenies have dropped 50% in the precinct.
McGeowan said thieves like to target large parking lots, such as the ones at the Co-op City shopping mall, at supermarkets and at the Home Depot on Brush Avenue.
That’s not to say that cops aren’t out there making arrests, including a recent one by the precinct’s plainclothes anti-crime team, who arrested a suspect breaking into cars at the Home Depot after the team staked out the parking lot there.
“We’re locking guys up, but it would nicer to prevent those break-ins,” said McGeowan. “We’re trying to do the best we can, but we need to educate the public.”
One precinct investigator put it in even plainer language about careless drivers:
They’re not living upstate,” he said. “They’re living in the Boogie Down.”