Car break-ins down thanks to 'Remove it, Lock it or Lose it'
Aug. 12, 2017
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Last week, Don Cook was asleep in his Hillwood home when the security alarm on his phone woke him up just past midnight.
Three burglars were trying to break into his car.
The burglars had tripped the surveillance camera on the side of Cook's home and the app on his phone alerted him to the danger. Although they were out of view from his upstairs window, the cameras picked up three people trying the car handle, found it locked and left the scene.
"The police arrived within minutes and I was able to share the video with them and they were able to describe the suspects over the radio and begin a search immediately. It was amazing," Cook said.
"In the past, if I reported something like this, the response was not always great, but this time they seemed determined, professional and stayed with my wife on the phone until police arrived."
It's a scenario many in Montgomery may relate to, but one that is on the decline this year after police have worked to push several policing methods and campaigns such as "Remove it, Lock it or Lose it," to discourage vehicle break-ins.
According to police data, vehicle burglaries are down 14 percent from last year with 821 vehicle break-ins from January to June compared to 958 break-ins in that time last year.
Because Cook followed "Remove it, Lock it or Lose it," he did not become a statistic.
"We're seeing a real responsiveness from the public. They're paying attention and they're getting that message and working with police and that's to their benefit and to ours," said Martha Earnhardt, the spokeswoman for MPD.
"Remove it, Lock it or Lose it," began as a way to combat a rise in reports of vehicle burglaries several years ago and encouraged people to remove valuables form their vehicles and to always lock their vehicles.
Criminals will often look for cell phones, tablets, laptops, firearms, purses, tote bags, loose change and other items of value that are in a car.
Capt. Regina Duckett, a spokeswoman for MPD, said she believes fewer car break-ins is a sign the campaign has gained traction.
"Lock your car, or you're going to lose it," Duckett said. "A lot of our vehicle break-ins unfortunately have been adult or kids just walking by pulling door handles just to see what's open. Once it's open, they are going to get in there and see what they can find."
"Or they walk by and see something extremely valuable sitting on the front seat and even if the vehicle is locked they may take means to get in.
"We've implemented that (campaign) for a long time and I think we are finally seeing some of the results."
One reason for a spike in success is Cpl. David Hicks' virtual presence on several Nextdoor neighborhood social media sites around the city.
Hicks, who leads the effort, regularly reaches out to neighborhoods through the Nextdoor app and posts safety tips, scammer alerts and breaking news.
On Nov. 13, Hicks posted a tip about unattended vehicles around the holiday season as part of a new series. Every week he posted a new safety tip.
"We strongly encourage citizens to think twice before leaving their vehicle unattended with the keys left in the ignition," Hicks posted. "Criminals are opportunists and only need a moment to commit crimes of opportunity."
Similarly, in July last year, MPD Chief Ernest Finley posted about the launch of the prevention campaign "Remove it, Lock it or Lose it'."
If police on patrol notice an unlocked vehicle, officers will leave a note and a friendly reminder for the owner to lock up next time and helps owners become aware of what could have happened or what could have been stolen inside, Duckett said.
Hicks reached thousands of neighbors using Nextdoor and was awarded the Nextdoor's Excellence in Community Partnership Award. MPD was one of seven police departments across the country to receive the award.
Cook called Montgomery Public Safety Director Christopher Murphy a day or two after his car break-in in Hillwood to tell Murphy how pleased he was with the police's response.
"He called me last week to tell me what happened," Murphy said. "I love calls like that. And he did his part. He locked his car, he was observant, he didn't just yell for them to get out, he called police.
"Everything just went the right way and those are the success stories that we want to push. We're making it harder for criminals to get into cars by just locking them."
Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com