You might want to think twice the next time you leave your purse or wallet in the car as you walk your child into school or head out for a run on a community greenway.
Police in both Cary and Chapel Hill are reporting a big spike in vehicle break-ins.
In Cary, the crimes - nine in the past 30 days - have happened at all times of the day at multiple gym franchises, Cary Police Corp. Chris Redig said. Compare that to just 33 car break-ins in gym parking lots in Cary in 2016.
This week, the Chapel Hill Police Department reported that the town also has seen a dramatic increase in vehicle break-ins compared to the same time period in previous years. Typically, police respond to 15 and 20 break-ins in January. Last month, they responded to 51.
The Chapel Hill crimes occurred at fitness centers, shopping areas and parking lots for community trails. Items stolen included a tablet, two GPS units, eight laptops, six wallets and 11 pocketbooks. In the final two months of 2016, four firearms also were stolen during vehicle break-ins in Chapel Hill.
Both departments are reminding people to lock up their cars and not leave valuables inside their vehicles.
"These parking lots are targeted because there are a lot of cars and they are unattended," Redig said.
In both Cary and Chapel Hill, victims had typically left valuable items in plain sight and, in many cases, left their doors unlocked.
Redig said a suspect or suspects also are breaking windows of locked vehicles and targeting purses and items left in front seat compartments. And, in some cases, they're not even getting out of their cars to commit the crime. Some simply smash a window from the passenger side of their own vehicle, reach in and steal whatever they see.
"They are very quick incidents and they can happen anywhere," Redig said.
And by anywhere, he includes other parking lots where we hop out on a regular basis - grocery stores, the soccer fields, your kids' gymnastics studio.
"It's become a problem where we leave valuables in plain site of passing cars," Redig said. "If you can, take it with you."
If you can't take your purse, for instance, Redig recommends securing it in the trunk so it won't entice anybody walking or driving by.
"We want to take that visible temptation away," he said.
After all, a stolen purse isn't just a hassle. It also could lead to more serious crimes than somebody simply taking cash from your wallet. Criminals also get valuable information from credit cards, your driver's license and other documents that could lead to identity theft, Redig said.
In a press release, Cary police shared some recommendations about how to leave your car when you park it somewhere and what to do if you see a crime in action.
- Avoid leaving valuables in plain view, including loose change and cash.
- Always roll up the windows and lock the car.
- Immediately call 911 if confronted and provide a detailed description of the suspect.
- Remember to take quick actions in notifying police to help increase the chances of apprehending the suspect and preventing future incidents.
Anyone with information about the gym break-ins in Cary is encouraged to contact the Town of Cary Police Department at 919-469-4012 or Cary Crime Stoppers at 919-460-4636. Crime Stoppers pays up to $1,500 for information leading to the arrest or indictment of those responsible for committing certain types of crimes. All calls will be kept confidential at caller's request. Cary Police share more crime prevention and safety tips on its website.
If anyone has information about the crimes in Chapel Hill, call either the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous. The caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to an arrest. You can also leave tips on the Crime Stoppers' website.
And, next time you drop your kid off somewhere, just take your purse in with you.