Spike in vehicle break-ins around Steamboat prompts reminder to lock up | SteamboatToday.com

Spike in vehicle break-ins around Steamboat prompts reminder to lock up

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has responded to eight reports of vehicle break-ins over the past week. Such incidents often are crimes of opportunity in which perpetrators find an unlocked vehicle and take anything valuable they find inside.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A string of recent vehicle break-ins around Steamboat Springs stands as another reminder for people to lock their doors and secure valuables.

The Steamboat Springs Police Department has received eight reports of such crimes in the last week, according to Police Chief Cory Christensen. The spike in cases prompted the city to send out a news release Thursday encouraging people to be vigilant about thieves. Most of the incidents have been on the south side of the city, according to the release, but they could happen anywhere.

All of the vehicles involved in the recent cases had been left unlocked, according to Christensen. He refers to most break-ins as crimes of opportunity. A person sees something valuable inside a car and checks to see if the door is unlocked. If it is, that makes for an easy grab.

It also is not uncommon for a person to tamper with an entire parking lot or street lined with vehicles, Christensen said. The car prowler goes from one door to the next checking for an unlocked latch.

“If the vehicle is locked, they move on to the next target,” Christensen said.

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Back when he was doing patrols, Christensen would spend part of his night shift driving slowly through neighborhoods with his lights off, looking around parking lots or down streets searching for the illumination of a vehicle’s interior lights. This was an indicator of someone pulling a door latch. 

“Very often, I would catch someone who’s been breaking into cars,” Christensen said.

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The police chief could not point to any one reason for the recent spike in break-ins, but he wondered to what extent financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic is making people desperate for money.

The summer months tend to see more vehicle theft reports in general, according to Sgt. Evan Noble with the Police Department. He attributes the recent rise in incidents to the fact that more people tend to be wandering around at night. If they see something valuable inside a vehicle, it gives them a reason to see if the door is unlocked.

“It’s not so much that someone is walking around with a hammer and breaking in,” Noble said. 

Even the more rural parts of the county are not immune to these crimes. In March, Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to eight reports of vehicle break-ins in Milner, with more than $1,000 worth of cash stolen. One month later, two vehicles were stolen from the unincorporated community west of Steamboat. Both vehicles were unlocked, and the keys were left in the ignition.

Locking car doors also is a way to prevent bear break-ins, an issue unique to mountain communities like Steamboat. Each year, the furry animals are perpetrators of vehicle damage. Subaru cars, a common sight around the city, have been particularly susceptible to such incidents because bears can slip their paws behind the door handles.

When it comes to deterring thieves, be they human or otherwise, the easiest steps a person can take are locking the vehicle and not leaving anything valuable inside or in plain view. People also should roll up the windows, make sure the sunroof is closed and park in visible areas when possible. 

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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