Thefts spur 'Like it, Lock it' campaign in Clay County

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A recent rash of break-ins has Clay County residents on high alert.

Dozens of incidents were reported over a three-day period earlier this month with homes, cars and personal items targeted.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office is reminding people to keep their personal items out of the hands of thieves with a "Like it, Lock it" campaign.

The push, which is using forums from Facebook to local electronic boards, is meant to get people to take common-sense -- but necessary -- steps to protect themselves.

One of the main targets in the rash of thefts has been cars, but most weren't burglarized by force. Officials said criminals took advantage of unlocked doors to steal items in broad daylight.

Fleming Island resident Roger Banks said he takes no chances when he leaves his classic Porsche in the parking lot.

"I make a habit of locking my car any time I leave it anywhere, including the library or Publix or any place I go," Banks said.

The problem, according to Clay County Sheriff's Office deputies, is that too many people don't do that.

"Unfortunately, we could probably walk the parking lot and probably pretty close to half of (the vehicles) are unlocked at this time," Deputy Matt Hanlin said.

Hanlin said one of the sheriff's office's biggest problems is getting Clay County residents to simply lock their doors.

Hanlin's wife was recently targeted by thieves. Her wallet was stolen out of her unlocked car.

"It's an opportunistic crime, and if the vehicle is locked, they'll go on to the next one, and if there's no unlocked vehicles, it just takes one element out that they have to bust a window or some other means to get into it," Hanlin said.

The sheriff's office's new campaign is pushing for changing driver's habits and getting them to lock their doors.

The message is simple: "If you like it, lock it up."

This year, deputies have responded to 274 auto burglaries in Clay County, with numbers spiking in June.

"They'll do them quickly, because once word gets out that there have been burglaries in the area, then people start locking things down," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. "So they try to get it done before people are more cautious."

Locking car doors and house doors might sound very obvious, but the sheriff's office said the reality is that people just aren't doing that in Clay County.

No matter how safe residents feel, deputies said, crime can still happen to them.