Preventing theft comes down to common sense

Steena Hymes

June 5, 2014

As temperatures rise, so do the expected amount of thefts. Summer months always see an increase in property theft crimes and this summer will be no different, according to Criminal Analysist Detective Chris Pritchett with the LaGrange Police Department.

In addition to making up the majority of crimes reported year-round, Pritchett said property theft experiences a 5 percent increase in the summer.

Pritchett gave advice and tips on how people can protect themselves from being a victim of burglary, auto-theft or theft in general.

Most of the best prevention tactics come down to common sense he said.

In a routine sweep of administering “gotcha tickets,” LPD agents will go around parking lots identifying cars that are easy targets of theft. Pritchett said an overwhelmingly amount of people leave their cars unlocked, windows down or valuables laying out in the open such as purses or wallets.

Pritchett recalled one sweep where, within 15 minutes of walking in a parking lot, he found a Toyota 4 Runner with the keys in the ignition, its windows down, doors unlocked and a purse in the front seat. He also found in other unlocked cars, purses or wallets, cellphones and mp3 players

“I literally could have filled up a duffel bag and then put that duffel bag inside of that 4 Runner and then left for the day… in 15 minutes I could have done that,” he said, adding that people open themselves up to being a victim to theft.

He estimated that in over 90 percent of entering auto crimes, the doors were unlocked.

Pritchett said criminals are opportunistic and look for easy targets they can steal from quickly without anyone noticing.

Though most may think criminals come out at night, Pritchett said that is usually not the case.

“Most burglaries happen during the day, cause what are most people doing during the day? They are at work,” he said.

Knowing surrounding neighbors is key to preventing one’s home from be burglarized. Pritchett said it’s important to get to know neighbors and there should be at least one or two who are trusted enough to look after the home if need be.

On the other side of that, he said to watch out for neighbors that could be potential burglars or thieves and to notice when they’re around.

According to Pritchett, most burglaries are committed by someone who knows the home owners.

[People] ask ‘why did they pick my house’… because at some point you let them in and they saw what you had … and they waited for you to leave and came by and took what you had,” he said.

High-risk items stolen the most are television and game consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation. Pritchett said once someone brags about their TV’s and game systems, they immediately put a target on themselves.

Pritchett estimates that only about 30 percent of stolen items are recovered. However, those who provide serial numbers for their stolen items have a significantly higher chance of seeing their belongings returned.

Pritchett recommended people go through their homes and take photos of all valuable items and the serial numbers attached to them. By doing so, if those items are ever stolen, serial numbers can be placed in an online database and tracked if they are sold to any other parties.

Pritchett also advised to use common sense when buying something online, especially electronics.

“If you go buy a 40 inch TV from [someone] on Facebook and he is selling it for a $100 and you know that TV cost about $600 … that’s when the wheels start spinning,” he said.

The simple act of buying a stolen item, even if one was not involved in the actual theft, they could be held criminally liable.

Ignorance to the theft will not serve as a defense against receiving stolen property, Pritchett said.

“The code section reads known, or should have known, it was stolen,” he added.

Other simple prevention tips Pritchett offered is to not carry many valuables on you or carry little to no cash. Bank cards are easy to cancel before a suspect can make purchases with it. He also recommended to keep bicycles locked up, adding that bicycles are stolen all the time because they are left in yards where anyone can walk up and take it.

Pritchett said the best way to avoid being a victim of theft is to be smart about securing your items in simple ways.

“Property crimes in itself is fairly simple to protect yourself from,” he said. “It’s just a matter of common sense and for whatever reason I see a lot of folks forget about these small things.”