Police: Lock or pay price

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Police Chief Bob Burford is wondering what it’s going to take to get people to start locking their cars at night.

“For the past two months, these car break-ins are not break-ins,” Burford said. “They’re open-the-door-and-take-stuff-out-of-the-car.”

A rash of recent thefts are due to people are not locking their doors, creating crimes of opportunity for thieves, he said. Thieves don’t want to break windows to get at valuable items except when a high-value item is visible. Breaking windows draws attention, and it means the thief must carry a tool or find a big rock, none of it conducive to a quick theft.

Some people may believe it’s better to leave a vehicle unlocked than let thieves break windows, Burford said, but breaking windows causes problems for the thieves.

He is asking that people start locking their cars and stop leaving valuables in cars.

The department would have to do a lot of digging to find the last time there was forced entry, said Det. Cyndi Pichardo.

“It is very frustrating,” Burford said. “If people would just meet us halfway and lock their cars.”

So far this year, Sweet Home has had 101 calls for unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle. In all of 2010, the department recorded 102 calls for UEMV. In 2009, the department had only 66.

From July 1 to Sept. 19, the department had taken 68 calls for UEMV, more than all of 2009.

“We’re putting a dent in it,” Burford said. “Through the use of special patrols, we’re catching people.”

Police arrested two over the weekend for unauthorized entry into motor vehicles, including Ashley Mae Waters, 22, and Timothy Tyrell Combs, 29.

The special patrols also recovered stolen property.

In one case, the patrol recovered cash, envelopes and bills; the cash had been divided into separate stacks with bills, Pichardo said. Then it was left overnight in an unlocked car.

The owner is a “very lucky individual,” she said.

One of the biggest problems with the situation is that officers need to do followup in other crimes, but the department has them assigned to follow up on these preventable thefts, Burford said.