SAVANNAH, GA (June 11, 2015): Rising auto and bicycle thefts, pared with entering auto complaints have led Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police to seek partnerships with residents for a campaign to battle the trend.

In the week ending Saturday, June 6, Metro officers investigated 34 auto thefts, 52 reports of auto break-ins and 12 bicycle thefts.

Keys had been left in 25 of the stolen cars and 173 of the vehicles entered year-to-date (68 percent) were left unlocked. And all of the bicycles stolen this weekend had been left unsecured by their owners.

To help battle the crimes, officers in each precinct are reaching out to neighborhood associations, individuals they engage and other organizations to request help in three familiar steps: lock your cars; take your keys; hide your valuables.

“Many of us remember the days when we could leave keys in our cars with the windows down, but those days are gone,” said Maj. Larry Branson, commander of the Patrol Division of SCMPD. “It’s important that everyone understand that we are not blaming the victim here. But we live in a city and we are asking residents to keep that in mind and help secure their property.”

So far this year, Metro has investigated 395 auto thefts — 99 more than the same time period in 2014; 772 entering auto complaints – 29 more than last year; and 136 bicycle thefts. The auto thefts also include an increasing number of motor scooters, which – when left unsecured — are easily picked up and carried away with locking mechanisms that easily are overpowered.

“The crimes often are related,” Branson said. “We find that areas with high numbers of one crime also are high in the others. In some locations, we have found stolen bicycles abandoned in areas where vehicles have been stolen. Clearly, thieves are taking bicycles to ride down city streets late at night, checking door handles to find unlocked vehicles.”

Once they do, the cars are entered and rifled through in search of loose change, cell phones and/or chargers, GPS devices, guns or the highest prize – ignition keys. If keys are found, the vehicle is taken and used in other crimes; “sold” to someone for other nefarious purposes; or simply abandoned after a joy ride. Metro officers recovered 17 of the 34 stolen last week and two were recovered by other law enforcement agencies.

The rise in the thefts follows a nationwide trend that is perplexing to members of some neighborhoods.

Ardsley Park leads neighborhoods in auto break-ins with 31 so far this year, an unusual ranking for that area. Twenty incidents involving 23 vehicles were reported Friday morning – all of the vehicles were left unlocked. In the Wymberly neighborhood just east of Isle of Hope, 12 cars were broken into and three bicycles were left behind over the past weekend.

“All precincts are stepping up patrols, particularly at times most of these thefts are occurring, and special operations and undercover crime suppression unit officers have been riding the neighborhoods,” Branson said. “But these officers, mostly in marked police cars, are easy for thieves to spot and avoid.

“In many neighborhoods, residents are helping us with stringent awareness of what is going on outside their houses and calling 911 the second they see something amiss. This is what it will take for us to curtail this activity, along with drivers locking their cars and removing valuables from sight.”

Anyone who sees potential criminal activity is asked to dial 911 immediately. Anyone with information on criminal activity that has taken place is asked to call Crimestoppers at (912) 234-2020 or text CRIMES (274637) using the keyword CSTOP2020. Tipsters remain anonymous and may qualify for a cash reward.