Police are urging University City residents to remain vigilant in keeping home garages secure after what they describe as a recent rash of burglaries.
Officer Chris Kopp, a community coordinator in the University City Division of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said there have been at least 10 reports of thefts from garages across University City during the past two weeks, as open garage doors are a tell-tale sign of the season change and warmer weather.
“That’s a big spike when you’ve had zero in the eight months prior,” Kopp said.
Most cases happen when garage doors are left open, though some detached garages have been broken into, Kopp said.
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“In one case, one guy was mowing his lawn and (someone) took two bikes and left,” he said, noting the average garage burglary takes 15 seconds or less.
“It’s technically a residential burglary, the same as if someone kicked in a back door. Just because the door is open doesn’t lessen the crime, by any means.”
Bicycles are among the most frequently taken items, Kopp said. But one University City neighborhood that was experiencing a lot of bike thefts began calling police when they saw suspicious people they didn’t recognize, especially if they were on bicycles.
“We want to make sure the bikes aren’t stolen. … We’ve recovered (more than) half the bikes stolen so far,” he said. Kopp encouraged residents to call and report any suspicious person or activity.
Though garage burglaries are a citywide problem that police deal with every year, Kopp said, they are crimes of opportunity that are relatively easy to prevent.
Police suggest these measures to help reduce or prevent the likelihood of becoming the victim of garage burglary:
• Before retiring for the evening, check to make sure that the garage door is closed, and lock the interior door leading to the garage area. Many don’t realize they have been burglarized until they walk into the garage area to find their golf clubs, yard tools, bikes, lawn mower – and in some cases, even their vehicles – are missing.
• Closing your garage door may be an inconvenience while doing yard work, but it can save hours of frustration. Remember, it takes only 15 seconds to commit a garage burglary.
• Look out for your neighbors. If you notice their garage door open for long periods with no outdoor activity, or if they appear to have called it a night, let them know.
• Whenever you close your garage door, make sure it is completely down before driving or walking away or closing the interior door. Remote controls and wall-mounted switches can occasionally malfunction.
• If you leave an automatic garage door opener in your vehicle, keep it out of sight and always lock your doors.
• If equipped, use the “lock” and “unlock” safety feature on the wall-mounted switch. When in the “lock” position, your automatic garage door opener is disabled.
• Place items of greater value farther into the garage area instead of close to the garage door.
• When leaving the garage door open for a pet, make sure the door is not high enough for a thief to slide under. If possible, install a pet door instead of leaving the main door open, Kopp said. “I’ve yet to see a human crawl through one of those.”