Lock it or lose it

By From page A1 | September 27, 2017

It takes less than 30 seconds to break into a car, grab what’s in plain sight, check the usual hiding places and then flee, according to Sgt. Mike Lensing with the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office’s Investigations Division.

The job is even easier when the vehicle is unlocked.

EDSO staff were in El Dorado Hills Town Center Monday, passing out fliers to passersby and hanging posters in local businesses to spread the message: “Lock it or lose it.”

“Last year more than two out of every five car break-ins were to unlocked vehicles,” Lensing said.

Car burglaries are on the rise in El Dorado County, specifically in the El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park, but other places the public congregates are being targeted too. Popular recreation areas such as Salmon Falls Road near El Dorado Hills, with its handy access to the American River and Folsom Lake, are popular with car burglars; another theft-ridden area is the river-adjacent Lotus Park near Coloma.

“(Vehicles) next to the American River have been victimized,” Sgt. Lensing said, noting this includes both unlocked and locked cars, but the majority of burglaries has been to unlocked cars where people have left valuables inside, visible. Potential burglars circle and check car doors to see if they are unlocked. If so, they simply open the door and help themselves.

“Over this last summer we have had cases where people have left their purses, their laptops and other valuable items visible in unlocked cars to run into the store for only a moment, thinking it would be safe — and these criminals are essentially waiting in the wings of the parking lot to find people just like that,” he said, noting, however, there really is no place in a vehicle that is safe for valuables. Burglars know to check the usual hiding places — glove compartments, consoles, behind and under seats, etc.

“We started getting a lot of these reports and initially we dealt with it on the enforcement end,” the sergeant continued. “We got limited success with just the enforcement end, so our detectives began looking at it from the investigation end — conducting parole and probation searches, contacting known vehicle burglars, using the latest forensic evidence technology to help identify some of these criminals, writing search warrants and making arrests.

“But then we realized we needed another facet to it, which was involving the community, educating them, ’cause if those items are not in the vehicle, the criminals don’t have a reason to break in,” he said.

In other words, Lensing added, “If the property is not there in the vehicle, they will stop trying; they are opportunists. Your first step is to not have valuables visible and your next step is to not have valuables in your vehicle at all. We have people break into cars and steal your registration, your garage door opener — and later break into your house with the key you left in your glove box.”

Public places are not limited to parking lots and city streets, Lensing stressed.

“We are recently having an issue with criminals going into neighborhoods and checking unlocked cars in people’s driveways,” he said, noting that while residents may feel like their belongings are safer in their own driveways, in reality they need to take the same precautions at home as they would in a grocery store parking lot.

Asked if the recent slew of burglaries is connected to the same gang of suspects, or are the work of random thieves, Lensing said it runs the gamut: “We’ve arrested people who have been doing a series of them and we’ve arrested people who have only done one or two.”

Village Life Staff


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