Purses, wallets, or backpacks left hidden in the trunk are still vulnerable, as thieves are known to employ lookouts and tools that quickly and quietly open a locked vehicle. | Credit: SBPD

If you think your vehicle’s trunk is a safe place for valuables, think again. The Santa Barbara Police Department has received so many vehicle burglary reports that they believe out-of-town thieves are watching popular recreational areas for people who leave their purses, wallets, or backpacks in the trunk of their car.

An escalation in reports of thefts at the municipal golf course, city parks, beaches, and parking lots throughout the city had Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale, the public information officer for the city police, sending out a bulletin to warn residents and visitors.

“These criminals have burglary tools that allows them to gain access discreetly and quickly to the vehicle’s trunk,” he stated. The victim’s credit or debit cards are then taken, and the purse or wallet left behind. “The victims are initially unaware the crime has occurred,” Ragsdale said.

It’s a pattern detectives have seen going up and down the coast, where a rash of thefts suddenly occur and just as suddenly move on to another city or county, Ragsdale said. Because the criminals punch out the lock on the vehicle and only take credit or debit cards, some victims only learn of the theft when they get a fraud alert. By then, their cards have been maxed out, he said.

If anyone sees suspicious activity, report it to 9-1-1 immediately, Ragsdale advised, or SBPD dispatch at (805) 882-8900.

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