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Be CAReful with valuables

OK, no one wants to steal a flip phone or an ugly purse, but the point is, don't leave visible valuables in the car. (Photo: Duluth Police Department)

Each Thursday at 1 p.m., our command staff and investigative staff gather at a CompStat meeting to review crime trend and patterns, identify offenders and direct police action. In the first quarter of 2017 we are experiencing an increase in vehicle prowls and auto thefts. Vehicle prowls are up from 232 in the first quarter of 2016 to 356 in the first quarter of 2017, a 153 percent increase.   Auto thefts have increased from 35 in the first quarter of 2016 to 60 in the first quarter of 2017, a 171 percent increase. These increases come after sustained reductions in these crimes over the past four years. Reported vehicle prowls in 2013 were at 1,383 and 1,203 in 2016. Reported auto thefts were 170 in 2013 and 150 in 2016.

With every crime trend and pattern, we look at location, day/time of the week and factors which contribute to crime victimization. The prevailing commonality in vehicle prowls has been the presence of valuables in plain view inside of vehicles, coupled with many cars being left unlocked. Technology such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, or bags, purses and wallets are exactly the types of items thieves are looking for. Even firearms stored in cars are stolen.

A good rule of thumb to follow, to avoid being a victim of a vehicle prowl, is this: Assume any item you leave in your car will not be there when you return. A little voice in your head should ask the question when you park, “What in my car can I do without and what hardship will I endure if it’s stolen from me?” Removing items when possible is always the best way to reduce the risk of theft, but if this is not feasible, locking valuables in a trunk or keeping them out of sight certainly helps.

The primary reason for the increase in auto thefts is due to vehicles left idling or keys left inside the vehicle. Keys left inside make for a simple lay-up for the auto thief. In some cases, the prowler did not intend to steal the car but because the keys were inside, it was just too tempting to pass up.

We often hear from victims they didn’t believe it would happen to them … until it does. This is a tough lesson learned and is entirely preventable.

DPD is committed to preventing crime and safeguarding your property, but we need your help. By simply removing valuables, locking doors and removing keys when you are not in the driver’s seat, you can dramatically decrease the chance you will be a victim of a vehicle prowl or vehicle theft.

As the weather heats up, we know prowlers will become more active. We are vigilant in our role to identify, interrupt, intercept and apprehend thieves to keep your property safe, but we need your help. I often emphasize how important it is for the Duluth Police Department to meet and engage our community, but we prefer our meeting is not when you are a victim of a preventable crime.

Please remove valuables, lock doors and remove keys.  

Mike Tusken

Contact Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken at 730-5020.