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CMPD tries to prevent uptick in thefts from cars during race events

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Police have a message for the thousands of people expected to stream into Charlotte hotels for race events this week: Don’t leave valuables in your cars.

Thefts from cars are the most prevalent crime in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Last year, they accounted for nearly one of every four reported crimes.

And police say they’re trying to prevent an uptick as visitors come to Charlotte in the week before the Coca-Cola 600.

The University City Division averages 21 thefts from cars a week. During race week in 2012, they responded to 38 larcenies from autos.

They attribute the increase in part to the higher numbers of visitors in town for the races.

Developers in Concord have built several new hotels, but establishments in Charlotte can have cheaper rates, police say. The ones in the University City Division, just a few miles down Interstate 85 from Charlotte Motor Speedway, expect to be at or near capacity this weekend.

And distracted race fans can be easy prey for thieves.

“A lot of the victimization is occurring because victims are leaving things in open view,” said Capt. Todd Garrett, who heads the University City Division. “And the possibility of recovering some of this property once it’s gone is very difficult.”

Keith Gaston, the chief of security at the Hilton hotel near West W.T. Harris Boulevard and North Tryon Street, said thieves can break into a car and make off with valuables in just seven seconds.

Police plan to increase some patrols and launch undercover operations this week. They’re also meeting with hotel managers in certain areas.

But officers believe public awareness is the best tactic because the thefts are so preventable.

“We just have to remind people to take their stuff with them,” Garrett said.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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