Police repeatedly tell residents to lock their cars, garages and homes, and to never leave keys inside the car. Yet even with the surge in car theft and burglary on the North Shore this summer, some people are not getting the message.
It may seem to defy common sense, but why do people leave keys in unlocked cars?
DailyNorthShore.com asked Deputy Police Chief Kyle Perkins of the Wilmette Police Department to shed light on the question.
“I think it is more of a convenience than anything. However, I also think that because Wilmette is a relatively low-crime community, people are more likely to not take precautions,” he said.
Wilmette, like the rest of the North Shore, has a low crime rate, but residents need to be careful. “Our Chief Brian King appropriately likes to say that Wilmette is a low-crime community, but we are not a no-crime community,” Deputy Perkins noted.
The summer’s crime wave is evidence of that: car burglaries have increased since June. All of the burglaries occurred overnight and all of the vehicles were targeted because owners left them unlocked with the keys inside. The Wilmette police recently reported in a July 15 crime alert that the department recovered two vehicles stolen from the village in the past week. One was located torched on Chicago’s South Side. The second was recovered in suburban Streamwood, west of Schuamburg.
And last week, two unlocked garages were broken into — on the 1600 block of Spencer Avenue and 500 block of 15th Street — and bicycles were stolen.
Village Manager Tim Freezer said at a Village Board meeting in June that certain towns, Wilmette included, get a reputation for leaving cars unlocked and “become easy prey.” Frenzer said unlocked cars with keys or fobs left in them are stolen by gang members who then use those cars to commit other crimes, including violent crime on the North Shore and shootings in Chicago.
In the July 15 crime alert email, Wilmette police wrote: “During a recent arrest, the offender told our detectives that they are drawn to this area (end of the ‘el’) as we have a reputation for not locking doors and leaving the keys in our automobiles.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Insurance Safety Administration (NHTSA), 50% of vehicles thefts are from driver error. And the top two months for vehicle thefts? July and August. The State of Illinois also makes the top 10 list for stolen cars: it’s No. 6.
So what can people do to prevent being a victim of opportunity?
According to NHTSA everyone would benefit if people followed these common sense guidelines:
- Don’t leave keys in your car
- Close and lock all windows and doors when you park
- Park in well-lit areas or in a garage, if possible
- Never leave valuables in your car, especially in sight
Deputy Perkins shared this advice: “People need to make sure they do not make themselves bigger targets of crime. This can be as simple as locking doors to your cars and garages. Never leave car keys in your car. We have very few forced auto or garage burglaries and almost all of our stolen vehicles have the keys in the car.”