July 19, 2006
A recent spike in home and car burglaries have Charlottesville police warning people to keep their belongings locked up and out of sight.
With the help of officer Harvey Finkel, a reporter searched through cars in the parking lot behind the Barracks Road Shopping Center. What they saw were all sorts of valuable items sitting in the front seat for anyone to take. Officer Finkel predicted what might be found.
"Cell phones, we'll find iPods, we may find a couple of handbags laying around," said Finkel.
Officer Finkel was right.
"I walked up to this car, looked around it and the first thing I see in it are personal belongings, but the biggie is the cell phone sitting on the front seat, think about how easy it is to lose that cell phone," explained Finkel.
We searched car after car and discovered more valuable bait that was left in open view for hungry thieves to snatch. Items such as a laptop, golf clubs and even a license plate.
"If you leave something like that, somebody could steal that and use that on their vehicle when they're committing a crime and it [would] make it so much harder for us to find the vehicle," said Finkel.
A peak into Drew Thatch's car window revealed a portable CD player and a set of pricey walking sticks.
"During the daylight you sometimes take that for granted for being safer. [It's] certainly probably smarter to move them out of the way," said Thatch.
Many cars weren't even locked. "It just gives more opportunity, and easier opportunity for someone to break into their car," said Officer Finkel.
When Finkel found a car with the windows cracked for air, he said, "I'd be able to reach into this car, and open the door!"
Finally, there was someone who did everything right. He learned the hard way.
"I didn't have my back window locked, and I had several fishing poles and all my tackle in there, and it was gone in an hour," said the driver.
Once the search was complete, Officer Finkel had this advice: "If you leave goods laying around and personal belongings laying around, someone is going to take the opportunity to steal [them]. Don't leave them the opportunity."
Out of the 15 cars that were checked, almost half had valuable belongings visible in the front seat for anyone to take.