SAVANNAH, GA (January 10, 2012): Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police are asking the public to perform simple tasks to help cut down on rising automobile thefts:
- Lock your car
- take your keys.
In the last week of the year, 18 auto thefts were reported: seven of the cars had the keys in them and many were left running as the drivers ran inside a business to complete a transaction. The latter has become a growing concern for Metro.
Police were able to cut down on thefts from cars: only 32 were reported for the week, seven fewer than the weekly average for the year. But in only two of those cases were the cars broken into. All others were left unlocked. Vehicles broken into had items in plain view that enticed the thieves to force their way in.
For the year, SCMPD investigated 730 auto thefts, 106 more than the number reported in 2010 but 405 fewer than reported in 2009. Police in 2011 also recorded 1,981 thefts from cars, 26 fewer than in 2010 and 601fewer than in 2009. But the ratios of cars left unlocked or containing keys was consistent all year: about 40 percent of the stolen cars had keys in them or readily available and about 50 percent were left unlocked.
Thefts from both rental and used car lots contributed to the number: In December, thieves broke into the Alamo auto rental lot near the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and into the Hertz office in the 1800 block of Victory Drive and stole six automobiles from each.
At Alamo, keys were left in the cars inside a fenced area. At Hertz, keys were left on an unsecured key board. Thieves took 15 sets of keys and the six vehicles. All of the cars were recovered in both cases and five suspects have been arrested.
Thefts from the lots are a recurring issue in the area, especially near the airport and at area dealerships where several multiple thefts have been reported during the year.
Vehicles stolen with keys in them offer opportunities for thieves who find them useful in other crimes. In dozens of cases this year, suspects have been caught in cars taken with keys in them. One led to a high speed chase through Savannah when a thief in one stolen car fired multiple shots at a police officer in the process of stopping a collaborator in a second stolen car. The gunman was arrested and convicted of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
“The convenience of being able to leave keys in the car is quickly overpowered by the inconvenience of losing the car, dealing with police reports and insurance adjusters and finding a new car,” said SCMPD Police Chief Willie Lovett. “It also increases the crime rates that influence the reputation of our community. And, it supports other criminal activities that can be even more dangerous to our citizens.
“Locking the car and taking the keys is a simple request to help us cut down on this area of crime.”
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