Crimes of Opportunity

Each year about this time like clockwork the same type of calls come in. Reading the news, you can see the increase in articles about thefts from vehicles, stolen vehicles, thefts from garages and even unlocked homes.

Many of these thefts have one thing in common, unlocked locks. These types of thefts are called Crimes of Opportunity and can often be stopped by taking a few extra precautions. We are going to discuss some of those solutions in this month’s blog.

Let’s look at a recent local theft case here in Madison, WI. Someone reported a theft from their home. They also found out their identity had been stolen and their credit cards were used at electronic stores in the area to purchase laptops and smartphones.

This has been a pretty typical call for police for decades. In this case we can trace the “opportunity” back to a health club where the victim was a member. Car keys left in an unlocked locker allowed a thief to access the victim’s car by simply clicking their car key lock feature to find the car in the parking lot. Once their car was unlocked the thief turned on their GPS and pressed the “Go Home” feature and drove the victim’s car to their home. At that point they used the victim’s garage door opener to open their garage, drive in and use the unlocked garage entry door to enter the victim’s home and steal items. Now the criminal can load up your car with your belongings and they never even had to force entry. Once the victim’s credit cards were taken, they were immediately used for thousands of dollars.

That’s the reality of many crimes, but there is good news, there are a few, easy, extra steps you can do to stop that thief in their tracks and keep them moving on to look for a different, easier target. Let’s break it down;

  1. Locking your belongings when have to leave them may not stop all access to them, but at the very least it will slow them down and let’s face it, someone cutting a lock on lockers will draw a lot more attention then someone removing items that may be theirs.
  2. Locking your vehicle, even in your driveway will have the same effect of slowing someone down or causing them to move on to an easier target. Keeping valuables of sight too.
  3. If you save your home address in your GPS save it under a different name. My suggestion, enter the address of your local police department as your “Home” address and save your home address under a fictitious name.
  4. As convenient as it is to leave your garage entry door unlocked as people come and go it’s not that difficult to get used to using a key, even for kids. Again, let’s not make the criminal’s job too easy.
  5. Before you go to bed at night get into the habit of making a security round. Make sure your garage doors are closed, all vehicles doors are locked (even in your garage), all entry doors are locked, and outside lights are turned on.

In addition to the steps we spoke about there are other ways to minimize your exposure to being a victim. If you have a Facebook account look up your local police department, chances are they have a Facebook page where they will post tips and things to watch out for specific to your community. Many departments have text alerts for situations in your neighborhood. Consider getting an app like “Neighbors”, by Ring, Amazon’s smart doorbell company. The Neighbors app is free and allows people to share, view and comment on crime in their communities. You can use this app whether you have a smart doorbell or not.

Remember, crimes of opportunities can only occur if you give criminals opportunity. Take it away and sleep well at night knowing you are doing what’s necessary to keep you and your family safe.

If you only take one thing from reading this blog let it be this, if it has a lock, lock it. Whether it’s at the gym, on your car, or on a door. Locks are there for a reason. In a future blog we will go over more ways to help prevent thefts from your home including securing doors and other potential entry points. Thanks for reading and stay safe!