Vehicle safety tips
1. Lock your vehicle and make sure all windows are up and secure.
2. Don't leave packages or valuables in plain view. Take valuables with you, hide them under the seat or place them in the trunk. This is especially true for global positioning system units, purses, compact discs, iPods, laptops and other electronic devices.
3. Park in a well-lit and busy area.
4. Purchase an auto theft system and use it accordingly.
Gainesville Police Department
The Gainesville Police Department is seeing an increase in vehicle break-ins, and officers are reminding residents to lock their car doors in every location.
"Well over half of the recent entering auto cases show the victims left their vehicles unlocked or unsecured with valuable items in plain view," said officer Kevin Holbrook. "This is what we call a crime of opportunity. It is very easy for someone to simply open the door or reach through a window to gain access to your vehicle. This takes nearly no time at all."
The thefts are especially targeted at electronics, said Sgt. Kiley Sargent of the Hall County Sheriff's Office, who has also seen an uptick in entering auto cases.
"Electronics are big. GPS monitors are very common because they're right there on the dashboard or stuck to the window," he said. "People can walk by and see it, and tinted windows don't make a difference. In today's times with the
population increase and economic crisis we're facing, people are looking for anything to get their hands on."
The cases are occurring across the county, and officials aren't pinpointing trends in location or time.
"It's very sporadic across the county. We see it in subdivisions, shopping centers and parking lots," Sargent said. "People may never have been a victim but just that one time. We also can't finger one age group of offenders. It's juveniles to adults that are breaking into cars, and we can't let our guard down as much as we'd like."
This especially applies to parking at home, said Gainesville Police officer Joe Britte.
"We see it in residential areas where folks are used to leaving their doors unlocked in their carports and garages with the laptops and purses out in the open," he said. "Get these out of the vehicle and put them in the trunk or in the house. Take that extra measure."
Marking electronics and personal items can also deter thefts, Sargent said.
"If a burglar sees that the item has been stamped or marked, he won't mess with it because he can't get rid of it later," he said. "Don't just write on it with marker. Get an engraver. In today's technology of digital cameras, you should also take a good zoom in picture of the serial number and an overall shot of each item so we can return it later."
Britte encourages neighborhood watch programs to keep an eye out for suspicious people.
"Neighborhood watches have increased with these entering autos and burglaries in the city limits. Be more nosey and report vehicles or people who don't fit," he said. "What you think may not be an issue actually could be. Someone could be scoping the area or staking it out. It doesn't hurt to call 911 and have officers come out to talk to the individual and see if they're lost or if they need assistance."