Police offer advice to protect your vehicle at home

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published October 9, 2019

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METRO DETROIT — Larcenies from vehicles, damage to vehicles and vehicle thefts are an ongoing problem and can be heartbreaking to experience, causing feelings of violation and mistrust.

After experiencing such a crime, you might ask yourself, “What could I have done to prevent this from happening?”

That’s where your local police can help. They see this type of thing all the time in their line of work.

Help them help you by taking precautions to protect your vehicle at home.

Some of the most common tips involve where to park your car, checking that your vehicle is locked, not leaving valuable items in it, using special lighting and setting up cameras.

Lt. Al Carter, from the Royal Oak Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, stated that the problem is widespread.

“I can tell you larceny from vehicles is a very common crime that occurs not only in Royal Oak, but everywhere,” he stated in an email interview.

He said that criminals look for “easy” opportunities.

“The biggest problem is people just not using common sense and becoming victims by leaving their valuables in their vehicles. Typically, criminals look for a crime of opportunity by lifting handles on unlocked vehicles. We encourage people to always lock their vehicles at all times and close the windows, including the sunroof,” said Carter.

He said that leaving valuable items inside — such as cellphones, wallets, purses and computers — can make your vehicle a larger target for break-ins, theft or damage.

“A lot people keep their loose change or dollar bills in the coffee holders inside the car. This is just too appealing for criminals. People should never leave their keys or key fob inside the vehicle ever! I discourage people from keeping important paperwork in their glove box as well. The vehicle’s title should never be kept inside the vehicle,” he said.

Carter recommends that you park your vehicle in a locked garage and make sure that it’s well-lit.

“Criminals do not like to be seen, so they prefer the dark,” he said.

Another tip is to have a car alarm and video surveillance.

“A car alarm is good, although people can become accustomed to false car alarms going off. Now home security camera systems and doorbell videos are more affordable; this helps not only as a deterrent, but as a possible identification of the suspect afterwards,” said Carter.

Another good tip is to look out for not only your possessions, but also your community.

“I encourage people to always be a good neighbor as well. They should be aware of their own neighborhoods and look out for each other for suspicious people,” said Carter.

Officer Jillian Mahlmeister, the community engagement officer from the Ferndale Police Department, shared some tips and said this type of crime has been on the rise.

“In the last month, Ferndale has seen a dramatic increase of car break-ins. In all these instances, the vehicles were left unlocked. In several cases, key fobs were left inside, and the vehicles were stolen. This appears to be a new crime trend and has been happening in other cities. These sorts of crimes occur where there is opportunity, and simply locking car doors eliminates the opportunity,” she said via email.

A few crime prevention tips that Mahlmeister shared were similar to Carter’s. She also mentioned parking in high-traffic, well-lit areas; installing porch, yard and motion-detector lighting to supplement streetlights; and notifying the police of any suspicious activity.

“Create a 9 p.m. routine! You can set an alarm to help remind you to,” she said.

A 9 p.m. routine involves checking to make sure doors are locked and that valuables have been brought inside. She mentioned checking that gates to your property and doors to your home are also locked and making sure all pets and family members are present or accounted for.

“This is a great tool aimed at helping eliminate crimes of opportunity!”

Brandon Dowty, a sergeant at the Shelby Township Police Department, shared a couple of other important tips.

“Ideally, you would want to park your car in a secured garage. Increasing visibility will make it easier for neighbors to report suspicious activity. After sunset, take a look around your home and assess the exterior lighting. Determine if the lighting creates any shadows close to the home that will limit visibility and could be used as potential hiding spots. Try to reposition or change your exterior lighting to reduce these shadows. Do not leave your keys in the vehicle, nor leave the vehicle running while unattended. Security cameras and motion lights will also help with reducing criminal activity,” Dowty said via email.

Sean Coady, the chief of the Utica Police Department, shared tips that he gives to his own family.

“Some of the tips that I share with my own family is, ‘If you like it, lock it!’ Do not leave valuables in plain view, and secure vehicles whenever they are parked. While at home, the same applies; ensure that your doors and windows are secured, and don’t leave items out,” Coady said in an email.

All it takes is a few extra seconds to make sure your vehicle is safe.

To find out if this sort of criminal activity is happening in your area, visit www.crimemapping.com or utilize the Ring doorbell app.

For more information on crime prevention or to report a crime, call your local police department.