Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

After an increase in random theft at retail parking lots and beachfront parking areas, the Santa Barbara Police Department is urging citizens to be aware of suspicious activity, lock their cars when parked, and keep an eye on their car keys and personal belongings at all times.

Busy areas with high volumes of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, such as Arroyo Burro Beach, Shoreline Park, and Elings Park, are of particular concern, said SBPD Communications Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale. The thieves are suspected to hail from out of town and may operate in organized groups, said Ragsdale.

“The ‘item of desire’ for these suspects are credit and debit cards mostly. They use the stolen credit cards at a local grocery store or department store to buy gift cards,” explained Ragsdale. “I’m assuming their hopes are to use as much of the money on the cards as possible, before the victim discovers the fraud alert.”

Ragsdale said he believes most criminals who resort to theft take advantage of opportunities victims provide to them, like failing to lock their cars, leaving valuables visible in their vehicles, and being unaware of their surroundings or personal property when shopping.

SBPD is taking steps to prevent these crimes, including patrolling the affected areas, conducting surveillance, and installing security cameras. Citizens can do their part by remaining aware and reporting any observed suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1.

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