Unlocked vehicles are a factor in an estimated 80 percent of vehicle burglaries in Denton, police said.
From Thanksgiving through Christmas, area vehicle break-ins increase by 30 percent. The most targeted areas are around the Loop 288 shopping centers, although as more businesses open near Rayzor Ranch, police are seeing an increase there, said Detective Jeff Laughlin, a nine-year veteran of the Denton Police Department.
Officials believe the reason for the uptick in vehicle break-ins in Loop 288 shopping areas is because of easy access to Interstate 35, especially when a break-in leads to auto theft.
Detective Marc Sweeney, a 10-year Denton police veteran, said shoppers should watch their surroundings and not leave their keys in a vehicle, ever.
Most of Denton’s recovered stolen vehicles are found in the Dallas metro area and most of the thieves involved in local vehicle burglaries are from Denton, police said.
“Even if you idle your car while dropping a kid off or warming up your car, it’s not safe because you don’t know who is watching you to just hop in the car and go,” Sweeney said.
Tips to help prevent vehicle burglary during the holidays include:
Keep shopping bags and boxes out of sight or stored in the trunk. Do the same with cellphones, laptops, CDs, purses, wallets and other valuables. Bring anything that might tempt thieves inside a home or office — even when parking a vehicle for a short time at a place that is considered safe.
Always lock vehicles, even if only running into a store for a moment, and always take the keys.
Ask valets at restaurants not to leave keys in the vehicle.
Keep garage door openers in the glove compartment or hidden, and avoid leaving mail or insurance forms visible. These can help thieves obtain your address.
Use a car alarm if possible and always leave vehicles in busy, well-lit spots.
Laughlin and Sweeney said they have been working on auto crimes for years and as Denton has grown, so have reported auto burglaries and thefts.
Prevention is key, and most people forget that items left in truck beds are easily accessible to criminals, police said.
“Crime is an opportunity. ... If you lock up and hide your belongings, the criminal will just go on,” Laughlin said. “Don’t make yourself vulnerable.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.