DEARBORN HEIGHTS — The city of Dearborn Heights says it has experienced a growing trend of nighttime auto break-ins and theft of contents, and that residents can help reduce risk by following common-sense steps.
Recently, the Dearborn Heights Police Department has received a growing number complaints from residents reporting overnight break-ins of automobiles and the theft of contents left in them, the city said in a press release.
“With the midst of the summer season here and all the great things that come with the warm weather, there also some not-so-favorable activities – including the potential for car break-ins and theft of their contents,” Police Commissioner Joseph E. Thomas said. “Unfortunately, this seems to be a growing trend – evidenced by the fact that recently, we experienced five break-ins in a single day.”
While no one can ensure 100 percent protection from intruders, the commissioner suggested a few common-sense steps residents can take on their own to help reduce the chance they will become a break-in victim.
“Obviously,” he said, “the best way to avoid these types of problems is to keep your vehicles garaged overnight.”
Thomas acknowledged that, while this isn’t feasible for many residents (particularly multi-car families), there are a few easy steps all owners can take to help reduce their risk.
The criminals who “specialize” in (stealing attached items from a car) can remove them from an unprotected vehicle with astonishing speed. And many of these parts are incredibly expensive to replace. —Dearborn Heights Police Commissioner Joseph E. Thomas.
“The easiest and most fundamental step is to make sure the vehicle is locked at all times when they are parked outdoors – day or night,” he said. “Lock your vehicle! It always amazes me the number of times we respond to a vehicle break-in and when the owner is asked if the vehicle was locked, we are told no, it wasn’t.
“Second, remove any valuable or attractive items from your vehicle. Items left in plain sight, such as money (even loose change), cell phones, laptops and tablets, wallets, GPS devices and garage door openers. Most vehicle break-ins are crimes of opportunity. The more visible and valuable a vehicle’s contents appear to a potential thief – and the easier it is to enter the vehicle, like thru an unlocked door, the greater the likelihood you’re going to lose those items – if not your car altogether. It is also helpful, especially when parked overnight, to keep your locked vehicle(s) parked in areas that are lighted as much as possible, either by street lights or motion-sensitive lights mounted on your house or garage.”
But small, attractive items left in the vehicles aren’t the only targets.
Thomas explained that even some larger “attached” items, such as steering wheels (because of their technological advancements) and catalytic converters (because of the precious metals found inside of them) can command some high prices on the stolen parts market.
“Vehicles left in dark, out-of-the-way areas are particularly vulnerable to these types of thefts,” he said. “The criminals who ‘specialize’ in these items can remove them from an unprotected vehicle with astonishing speed. And many of these parts are incredibly expensive to replace – especially if the owner does not have the proper insurance coverage.”
Another frequently-overlooked hazard by vehicle owners centers on their key fobs.
“People need to realize that when they come into their house and toss their keys on a counter near the door, the fob is sometimes still in range of the car – meaning the car can be unlocked and started by anyone without actually having the fob in their hands,” Thomas said. “This gives the potential thief easy access to the vehicle, whether to remove its contents, or in a worst-case scenario, to drive away with it. The rule of thumb is, for safety, make sure your key fob is ‘out of range’ of your parked car. To test this, it’s as simple as pressing the fob’s ‘panic’ button. If the alarm sounds, it is in range. If not, you’re good.
“Obviously, it’s impossible to ensure 100 percent protection whenever a vehicle is parked outside,” Thomas said. “But with just a few common-sense steps, residents can certainly help reduce the risk of experiencing problems like this in the future.”