Smash and grabs from vehicles: How to think like a thief

It only takes a second and can happen in broad daylight. Smash and grabs are a common type of theft in Midtown. Photo by tompagenet used under Creative Commons licensing agreement

One of our readers asked this week if Midtown was seeing an increase in smash and grab robberies. He said he’d had his suitcase and backpack stolen in a smash and grab at 30th and Main, and he’d heard several reports of the same sort of thing ­– thieves quickly breaking a car window and making off with the vehicle owner’s property. So we put it to James Schriever at Central Patrol. No, he says, smash and grabs are not increasing. They’re just very, very common crimes across the metro area.

They’re also one of the easiest to prevent, he reminds us. Here’s the text of the If I Were a Thief brochure the police department has developed. It doesn’t hurt to review it now and then, since we all have a tendency to get lax over time. The quotes below show how a thief thinks about our cars, and how easy it would be for us to make his job more difficult.

  • Always lock your vehicle and keep the windows rolled up. “Almost half the thefts I pull are from an unlocked vehicle. If a target is too hard – I will move on.”
  • Do not leave items of value in plain view inside your vehicle. “I look for things like cell phones, radios, briefcases, laptops, purses, packages, CDs, GPS devices, and other stuff that means quick cash for me. Even loose change could attract me. You better take anything that looks valuable with you.”
  • Know when and where to place valuables in your trunk. “I could be watching you arrive at your parking destination – so if you use your trunk, do so well before you park here.”
  • If you have an anti-theft device, use it. “I like to work fast and quietly; so I do not like an alarm being set, or a steering wheel ‘club’ being put in place correctly.”
  • Do not leave your keys in your unoccupied vehicle. “Even in a second – I could hop in your ride and be gone. I like to hang at convenience stores and I do not care if your kids have to go for a ride too.”
  • Remove GPS units/electronics as well as their indicators (mounts/chargers, etc.) “Knowing people will simply place the device in the console or glove box, if I see indicators, I will still break in and take my chances. Once I have your GPS, I know where you live.

Many of these suggestions are easy to implement, and Office Schriever estimates we could reduce smash and grab crimes by 90 percent if we just remember to do them every time we left our cars.

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