SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With the holiday shopping season about to crank into high gear on Black Friday, the California Highway Patrol took to social media, warning local residents to take precautions to prevent vehicle break-ins.
Across the San Francisco Bay Area, vehicle break-ins have been on the rise and the holiday shopping season always triggers a surge in thefts from vehicles.
“While our main area for calls like this is surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge, our local law enforcement partners deal with this frequently in shopping centers or even in neighborhoods,” the CHP Marin County office posted on Facebook.
“Criminals know where they can find higher concentrations of ‘easy’ targets and will usually head to these areas with the hope of a big score,” the post continued. “While things like wallets, backpacks, brief cases, and even small bags are the main targets, holiday shopping bags also become frequent targets this time of year. While you may know that the bag on your front seat has nothing of value in it, they don’t, and they’ll shatter out the window to get it.”
The CHP said once a vehicle is targeted, thieves strike quickly.
“Typically, after scouting out different vehicles, the criminals engaged in this practice take only about 5-10 seconds to break into the vehicle, grab everything they want, and flee the scene before anybody is really able to realize what just happened,” the post read.
While admitting theft from vehicles is hard to stop, the CHP said you can make it difficult for them.
“You can make it more difficult by hiding your valuables if you leave them in the car,” the CHP read. “Don’t leave any type of bag in plain view, even if there aren’t valuables in them. Put anything that might be construed as a valuable in the trunk, or covered in the tailgate area of an SUV. Remember, when they smash the window they typically grab the item they want and don’t take the time to search through the vehicle for other items.”
Also, the CHP said, take precautions even when you are parked in your own driveway.
“If you are one of those people that leaves your doors unlocked when you park in your neighborhood, please start locking them,” the CHP posted. “It is also common for us to see a person walking through a neighborhood at night, pulling every door handle they pass. If the door opens they let themselves in and take anything they can find. While missing a few dollars in change might not be much, the ability to open your garage door with an opener will give them access to a whole new world of items to abscond with.”
If you do find yourself a victim, call 911 and your credit card companies and bank immediately.
“If you are the unfortunate soul that gets their wallet or purse stolen, in addition to calling us right away, immediately call your credit card companies and report the cards stolen,” the CHP said. “It is very common for us to learn that the thieves immediately began charging large sums to credit cards as they know they will only have minutes to do so before the cards are canceled. This also helps us investigate where the criminals fled to after the crime occurred.”
Also — “If you see someone walking through a parking lot, looking in multiple vehicles and trying door handles, and you even think it’s slightly suspicious, call 911.”