While this photo from Staffordshire speaks to leaving a car to warm up unattended, Santa Barbara police advise drivers to lock their car doors to prevent easy access for theft. | Credit: South Staffs Police

“If you give a criminal an easy opportunity to commit a crime, they are going to do it,” said Sergeant Ethan Ragsdale of the Santa Barbara Police Department — specifically, petty thievery from unlocked cars countywide and outright grand theft auto.

The police department has investigated several incidents in which cars were broken into simply because they were left unlocked. One crime escalated after the thieves found the keys to an owner’s vehicle in the glove compartment of their other car, which the robbers had entered through an unlocked door.

No overall increase in vehicle theft has prompted the “lock your car doors” warning from the Police Department. It’s just a crime of opportunity that’s simply deterred by a locked door, Ragsdale said: “These are people looking for easy ins and quick outs.”

In addition to locking the doors, police advise removing valuables — such as purses, laptops, and car titles — from the vehicle in order to eliminate the opportunity for crime.

Thefts from vehicles is not more prevalent in one area than another. It is a county-wide problem. “Unfortunately, every community has criminals,” said Ragsdale, urging community members to be vigilant everywhere.

The police offered tips on some suspicious behavior to be on the lookout for. Oftentimes thieves walk down the street, trying every car door to see if it is unlocked. Ragsdale also advised citizens to be wary of individuals wandering parking lots alone, as they may be potential perpetrators.

“I know this gets beaten like a dead horse,” he said, “but it never hurts to call the police.” The Santa Barbara Police Department will send officers to the location to investigate the claims as soon as possible.

In the event your car gets broken into, Ragsdale advises calling the police immediately. Each incident is evaluated on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not a report should be filed in person or online, but generally break-ins with no physical damage to the vehicle can be reported online.

“If you are unsure, call the dispatch center and they can best direct you,” said Ragsdale.


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