Being a police reporter, writing about killings, robberies and all manner of thefts, I hope I don’t see my life reflected too much in my work.
But my job has changed the way I park at grocery stores and malls, which are commonly targeted by thieves. I’ve had dozens of officers tell me about how easy it is to steal something from my car.
So, although I’m sure no one wants the collection of reporter’s notebooks and gym clothes in my back seat, I make sure to park in well-lit, high traffic areas, even if it means driving around or waiting a bit. No thief wants to get caught, and increasing the number of eyes that can see someone trying to break into my car is an easy and free way to prevent myself from being victimized.
I was thinking about that earlier this year when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced that crime was up 10 percent. Mixed in with the bad news, police tried to give Charlotteans a good message: You can make yourself less vulnerable to crime.
▪ Lock your car doors.
Thefts from vehicles has been the most common crime in Charlotte-Mecklenburg for about as long as cars have existed. And a lot of victims make an easy crime easier. More than a third of last year’s thefts from vehicles occurred in unlocked cars. And in 376 thefts from vehicles, someone stole a gun.
“The issue is bad guys get guns most times from legal gun owners,” CMPD Chief Kerr Putney told a group of business and civic leaders earlier this month. “This is the South. I know you love your guns. So do I. Let’s be responsible about it.”
The same advice applies for car thefts: nearly 1 in five vehicle thefts involved keys in the ignition or keys left in the vehicle.
▪ Don’t do drugs.
Police say people who buy and sell drugs were more likely to be crime victims in 2015. Nine of last year’s homicides were drug-related. Twenty-six percent of robberies involved drugs. So did 51 percent of home invasion robberies.
Police used to emphasize the “dangerous lifestyles” of homicide victims to emphasize that most law-abiding folks shouldn’t fear being victims of random violent crime. Officers have backed away from that after criticism that it was insensitive, but they also noticed a recent surge in killings involving marijuana. Debates about the effects of ingesting the drug aside, police said marijuana is a valuable commodity, one that is trafficked by people who are willing to break the law, which has led to deadly results.
▪ Record the serial numbers on all your things.
Stolen property is four times more likely to be recovered if serial numbers are known. Police have said for years that thieves don’t swipe things to keep. Many times, they’re looking for small, easily pawnable things that can swapped for quick cash.
Last year, in writing about a surge in bike thefts, I passed along a tip that could work with other valuables: Take a picture of the serial number and send it to yourself. Equipped with a serial number, police can often search a database of pawnshops in order to get your things back.