City police are warning residents to lock their car doors and be diligent about removing valuables in light of a seasonal trend of car burglaries and thefts.
When a band of teens loots a laptop or drives off in a stolen car, it’s usually a crime of opportunity, department spokesman Maj. Paul Rogers said. They’re not looking to smash windows to get the goods.
The culprits will scour a neighborhood around 3 or 4 a.m., pulling on door handles, looking for unlocked cars containing spare change, phone chargers, jewelry and the occasional laptop, he said. Sometimes, they hit the jackpot and find a set of keys inside.
“We live in a safe community, where everyone thinks nothing could ever happen here,” Rogers said. “It’s one of the most preventable crimes out there.”
Police tell people to always lock their car doors — even if the car is parked in the driveway — and remove any valuables, including the keys, whenever the car is parked.
Hiding a wallet or purse under the seat in the parking lot at the gym isn’t enough, Rogers said. If a criminal is in the area, he may be watching. The trunk still holds a risk, because a criminal could use the release lever to pop it open.
“Taking the items with you is the best way to prevent a burglary,” Rogers said.
Popular home security cameras have captured recent burglaries in Vision One and Alton on video, but police have not been able to identify the suspects, he said.
Palm Beach Gardens saw 169 vehicle burglaries from April 1 to June 30 this year compared to 219 during the same period last year, according to a city crime analysis report.
Although the number of car burglaries decreased year over year, police tend to see an increase in the summer months compared to the rest of the year, Rogers said. Teens are out of school for the summer and looking for something to do, he said.
Meanwhile, 31 cars, or 11 more than last year, were stolen from April 1 to June 30, according to the crime analysis report. The five-year average for that three-month window is about 30, according to a crime analysis report.
Criminals sometimes use the stolen cars to commit crimes, and some cars Palm Beach Gardens police recently recovered were going to be used in violent crimes, Rogers said.
In Palm Beach Gardens, the crimes are most prevalent in residential neighborhoods north of PGA Boulevard. But Rogers emphasized that the car burglaries and thefts are not isolated to Palm Beach Gardens, and city police work closely with other agencies.
“The criminals don’t just stay in jurisdictional boundaries,” he said. “They’re always looking for an opportunity.”
Jupiter saw 104 vehicle burglaries between April and June this year compared to 150 during the same period last year. The town also saw a slight decrease in auto thefts: 19 between April and June of this year compared to 21 for that period last year, according to Jupiter Police spokeswoman Kristin Rightler.
Looking solely at July, there were 33 auto burglaries reported in Jupiter this year compared to 30 last year. The town saw 10 auto thefts this July, twice as many as in July 2017. Seven of those 10 stolen vehicles were recovered, Rightler said.
Palm Beach Gardens police hand out fliers with prevention tips. They also walk through parking lots at places such as gyms and hotels, looking for valuables or keys left in sight, Rogers said. When possible, they’ll track down the owner and suggest he or she return to the car to secure the items.
Postcards left on vehicles at hotels to remind guests to remove their valuables.
“If we can do a little extra to prevent a crime, it’s only going to make the community safer and make those criminals go elsewhere,” he said.
Tips for avoiding car break-ins and thefts:
-Always lock your doors.
-Never leave any keys or key fobs in the car.
-Always remove any items of value, even spare change and phone chargers.
-Call 911 if you see someone or something suspicious.
If anyone has information on the identities of the persons in the video they are asked to contact the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department at 561-799-4445.