Township police encourage ‘9 p.m. routine’ amid surge of car break-ins, thefts

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 9, 2023


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Police in Bloomfield Township are warning the public to stay vigilant amid a surge of motor vehicle break-ins and thefts by sticking to the “9 p.m. routine.”

The initiative — started in 2017 by a sheriff’s office in Florida — is a national program that encourages people to follow a routine checklist every night to make sure their property is locked up and safe.

So far in 2023, the Bloomfield Township Police Department has investigated 69 reports of vehicle break-ins, compared to 46 reported last year.

As for stolen vehicles, the department is reporting approximately 35 cases so far in 2023, which Officer Nick Soley said is an increase from last year.

The actual number of affected cars is likely much higher than the reported figures, Soley explained, because some incidents involve two or three cars in a neighborhood that all get lumped into the same report.

“If you start really breaking those cases down, 98% of them are unlocked vehicles, and, with our motor vehicle thefts, 99% are unlocked cars with the keys in them, so they are finding an unlocked car with the keys in it, and off they go,” he explained. “It’s easy with these key fobs these days. People leave them in the glove box, or throw them in the cup holder and forget about them.”

In response to the crime, the Bloomfield Township Police Department is raising awareness about the “9 p.m. routine,” a nightly reminder to the community to remove valuables from their vehicles and lock their vehicle doors.

Property crimes are often crimes of opportunity, Soley said, so important details like removing valuables from your car, locking car doors and turning on lights can easily deter criminals.

“We see video after video from Ring surveillance, or other home surveillance, where suspects walk up the driveway, they pull on the car door, and if it’s open, they get in it and they step on the brakes to try the ignition. If it starts, it’s gone. If it doesn’t, they rummage through it,” he said. “On the flip side, if they walk up the driveway and the car door is locked, they just move on to the next place. That’s what stinks about this. Within a half hour, they can hit six to seven houses back-to-back-to-back. If there are cars in the driveway and if they are all unlocked, that’s eight victims in one incident report.”

The most often-reported stolen items in vehicle burglaries are key fobs, spare keys, money, wallets, firearms, laptops and tools.

Crime prevention, Soley noted, is a shared responsibility, and it does not have to be complicated — hide your belongings, lock your car and take your keys inside.

“What we are asking people to do is to remove their valuables, keys, wallets and garage door openers; lock their cars; and also use that as a time to make sure their outdoor lights are on and their garage doors are closed,” he said. “It’s not just a problem we have here in Bloomfield. It’s a problem that’s across this nation.”