The Gainesville Police Department is asking those out shopping or doing other activities during the holiday season to be especially careful when leaving belongings in their cars.
“Traditionally, during the holiday season, we see a spike in car burglaries,” said Capt. Jorge Campos, the department’s operations bureau commander.
Two of the biggest problems, Campos said, is people leaving their cars unlocked or items in places more easily accessible to burglars.
A good crime-prevention tactic Campos recommended is putting items in the trunk instead of leaving them under or around car seats.
“It’s a lot harder to get into the trunk than it is to get into the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” he said.
Thieves target places like parking lots in shopping malls, public parks and gyms, Campos said, because most people leave their wallets or purses in their cars when visiting such places.
Other tips from Campos include: be aware of your surroundings, report suspicious activity and keep your doors locked.
The advice comes as Gainesville has seen two spikes of 100 or more car burglaries in single months (May and July) this year. The month-by-month breakdown for 2016 provided by Campos is:
Six of 2016’s break-ins are possibly part of a local ring of people cashing checks stolen from cars, Campos said.
Gainesville police posted a video on Facebook Thursday asking for help in identifying a suspect in the ring. The video shows the suspect trying to get money from a bank’s drive-through window using a check stolen from a car.
Because of these threats, Meaghan Brune said she never leaves anything in her car.
Though the 50-year-old Gainesville resident doesn’t think Gainesville is any less safe than other areas, she said thieves are on the lookout for belongings left in cars.
“I think if you’re walking by and you see something in the car, your natural instinct — if that’s the kind of person you are — is to try to open the door or break a window or whatever to get it out,” she said from outside Oaks Mall on Monday.
Also at the mall Monday was 55-year-old Gainesville resident Robert Cruce, who said he keeps his wallet in his pocket at all times and that he’s always worried about his car being burglarized.
“You don’t know how it’s going to be around this area nowadays,” he said. “You know, it’s gotten really bad. Breaking into cars is really bad.”
Born and raised in Gainesville, Cruce said the city has changed greatly.
“I usually just keep everything locked up in my truck,” he said. “That’s about all I can do.”