Crime of opportunity, prevention is key

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HENDRY COUNTY - A rash of vehicle burglaries have occurred throughout LaBelle and Clewiston. While the spike has residents on edge, there are ways to minimize the risk. “Do You Know the Most Preventable Crime??” Was recently posted on social media by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).

It is true that many of these thefts occur when valuables are left unattended and in plain sight with the vehicle unlocked or a window open. Basically, any article left in plain view becomes a target. Favorite targets include anything of value, especially cash or loose change that is left in the console or ashtray. Wallets, purses, phones, tablets, laptops, sunglasses and briefcases are also attractive to thieves.

The HCSO Facebook post went on to explain, “During the nighttime hours of 10 p.m. Oct. 5, and 6 a.m., Oct. 6, thieves unlawfully entered three vehicles and tried to break into another car in the Belmont area of LaBelle. Two more vehicles were unlawful entered during the same time frame off Bryan Ave. and another car stolen. Only one car was locked and the thieves were unable to gain access.”

HCSO said that vehicles were found ransacked, “currency, jewelry and purses (containing important documents) and wallets stolen, all because the owners left these items in unlocked vehicles - unattended overnight.”

They reported a case of an unlocked vehicle in Clewiston where firearms were stolen.

The HCSO asks the community to do their part to help reduce the amount of vehicle thefts and burglaries by locking their cars and hiding all valuables, and recommends the following:

1. LOCK YOUR CAR DOORS!! Experience has taught us that over 80% of our car burglaries were done on unlocked cars. This is the simplest and most effective way to enhance the prevention process.

2. Keep your vehicle free from debris and limit what is kept inside of it. Do not leave purses, wallets, G.P.S., MP3 players or iPods, computers, tablets, book-bags, sunglasses, money, or ANYTHING of value, inside your car. If there is nothing of value in plain view, the thief will likely move onto the next target. If you have a SUV that leaves your cargo area visible, consider getting a cover. Most can be fitted with inexpensive retractable covers to help keep shopping bags and other gear out of sight. Covers may also be purchased to cover the truck bed.

3. Don’t leave boxes or bags in plain view…even if they’re empty this could tempt car burglars to break in and see what’s inside.

4. Even if you are parked in front of your house, in your driveway or inside your garage, LOCK YOUR DOORS!!

5. Completely Close Windows and Sunroofs. It’s not just because thieves might reach in through the gap and open your locks. Open windows may disable the pressure sensor in some car alarms, leaving the vehicle more vulnerable to break-ins and potentially giving thieves more time before the alarm sounds.

6. Get an Alarm. If you don’t have an alarm, get one. The noise alone may be enough to scare away a thief and stop the break-in in progress. Something to consider, any less expensive new cars have remote entry but may not have a true alarm.

7. Park for Visibility. Park in a busy, well-lit area, and avoid concealment from larger vehicles, fences, or foliage. Except for the most brazen thieves, the greater the chances are that someone might see a crime in progress - the lower the chances are that the potential thief will attempt it.

If you do observe people looking suspicious and checking vehicle door handles, or looking into car windows, deputies urge immediate reports be made by calling 911. Many criminal cases have been solved because citizens have taken the initiative to call 911 to report the crime and details of their observations, while in-progress. You have the option to meet with an officer or you can choose to remain anonymous if that makes you feel more comfortable.

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