The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office is reminding local residents to lock their car doors and keep valuable items out of plain sight following a string of vehicle break-ins earlier this week.
In one night, approximately 15 vehicles were entered and various items were taken in the Royal Oaks Plantation subdivision off Highway 17 South.
All the vehicles that were entered had been left unlocked, and some even had their windows rolled down, according to ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
“The ‘smash-and-grab’ thefts are just very rare nowadays,” Ehsanipoor said. “A lot of times, the people who commit these crimes will walk through a neighborhood and just check car doors. If a car’s doors are locked, they move on to the next one.”
Ehsanipoor said that, in 90-95 percent of the entering-auto cases the ECSO works, the car doors are unlocked. The items most commonly stolen from vehicles, he said, are GPS devices, cell phones, laptop computers, MP3 players, wallets, purses, jewelry and cash.
Even with the doors locked, though, the ESCO discourages leaving valuables in the car. A valuable item left in plain view could tempt a burglar to smash a window to get to it.
“There are three elements to every crime — the criminal has to have the ability and desire to commit the crime, and the opportunity must be present to do so,” Ehsanipoor said. “We can’t control the criminal desire and ability, but we can control the opportunity. If you eliminate the opportunity, you will more than likely eliminate the crime.”
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office offers the following tips to reduce the risk of an auto break-in:
• Always lock your doors, even if you plan to be away from your vehicle for only a minute such as running in to pay for gas.
• When shopping, always place purchased items in the trunk and out of sight before going to the next shopping area to park.
• Try to maintain a “clutter-free” vehicle.
• If you can’t park your vehicle in a garage at night and must leave it parked in the driveway or on the street in front of the house, remove and hide your garage door opener. “A garage door opener is a key to your home,” Ehsanipoor said.
Anyone with information about the auto break-ins at Royal Oaks is asked to call the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division at 754-3449.