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Behind the Badge Investigating local trends in auto thefts, break-ins

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Lt. Chris Piombo

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:05 am, Mon Nov 14, 2011.

I realize the subject of auto burglaries probably doesn't do much for you as you hunch over your bowl of bran flakes or stack of flapjacks, or both, depending on your age and cholesterol level. But for those of us who have been a victim of this crime, this information shows we're not alone. And for those of you who have not heard the crunching sound as you stepped on a pile of broken window glass on the street next to your car as you head off to work one morning, here are some things that might help you avoid being a victim.

LPD crime analyst Dale Miller provides information on crime trends to our officers throughout the week. He sends out emails that alert us to where crime is occurring and who might be responsible for the misdeeds. I was looking over his auto burglary statistics for the past month and noticed some common themes.

There were 38 auto burglaries in the city of Lodi between Oct. 8 and Nov. 8. That's about one burglary per day in a city of over 60,000 residents. Pretty good. And that's the second-lowest monthly total for the past year. Pretty good times two.

Here are some shared factors I found among those 38 burglaries. Think about them as you decide where to park your car.

As expected, the vast majority of the burglaries occurred at night. Suspects mostly broke into cars parked on the street or in the driveway. Thirteen of the thefts occurred during the daylight hours. Sixteen break-ins occurred in shopping center, restaurant, or bank parking lots. Parking lots open to the public, with customers walking around pushing shopping carts. We often wonder how the thieves do it. Are they specters who materialize in our dimension for a nanosecond, bust your window, swipe your purse, then slither back into that parallel universe where Spock wears a moustache?

Speaking of purses, ladies, and men (it could be a European carry-all), this is just a reminder to take them with you or tuck them way, way out of view. This applies to briefcases and laptops, too. Purses or briefcases were ripped off in 10 of the 38 thefts. Six laptops were stolen as well. Nine out of 10 of the purses, briefcases or laptops were left in plain sight on the seat or floor.

GPS units and CD/DVD/Blu-ray players left on the dashboard or in view were also popular. Most disconcerting were the two handguns that were stolen during auto burglaries.

Some of the more unusual items taken included cigars, a lunchbox, a bag of magic markers, a man's suit, and a wedding ring.

How do the thieves get into the car, you ask? Well, they punched out (with a tool, not a fist) the door locks in seven cases and they smashed windows in at least a dozen crimes. Some cars were left unlocked or the bad guys simply found some unknown way into the vehicle.

Oftentimes it appeared the thieves were just moseying through the parking lot or down the street when they spotted something of value sitting in the car. In a couple of those cases the victims were only gone for 10 minutes. People who went into their child's school to drop off a note or into the take out counter at a restaurant came out to find someone swiped their stuff. That means the suspects were probably sitting in a car watching people or milling about in the lot or on the street prior to the burglary. Keep an eye out for a guy or guys just sitting there for no reason. But if that guy is eating a burrito while listening to sports talk radio, it could just be one of us watching the bad guys watching you.

How do we catch them, you ask? Call us. Whether it's the guy skulking around a parking lot at noon or someone walking down your street at 4 a.m. while obviously not delivering the News-Sentinel, give us a call.

Due to reductions in personnel, some valley law enforcement agencies will not respond to suspicious person calls. We still do, and usually have officers there within a few minutes, depending on what else is going on in the city.

In the unfortunate event a burglary actually did occur, our officers will talk with you, check with neighbors and witnesses, gather evidence and, if conditions permit, dust for fingerprints. That type of service is just one more advantage of living in the city of Lodi.

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