Police beg drivers to lock car doors after spike in thefts

GPD: 50% increase in car thefts over last 3 months; guns being stolen from cars

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gainesville police begged for everyone to lock their cars doors after announcing at a news conference Wednesday that they have seen a 50 percent increase in the number of car burglaries from this time last year and a 50 percent increase in the last three months. 

According to the Gainesville Police Department, there have been 450 reports of car burglary in 2016 and the majority of cases involve vehicles that were left unlocked by their owners. 

"I cannot say it any plainer: You have to lock your vehicle," Officer Ben Tobias said. "If you're not locking your vehicle, then you're absolutely inviting crime into your area."

While many of the burglaries result in the loss of cash or electronics, police said, guns are also being stolen from unlocked vehicles. Investigators found that 19 firearms were stolen from vehicles in a three-month period, many from unlocked vehicles.  

Just this week, police said, a man was arrested after committing six burglaries in one night. 

Some of the firearms were recovered, but stolen guns are often used in armed robberies and other gun-related crimes, according to police. Investigators continue to investigate the instances in which guns have not yet been recovered.

Police also said they frequently patrol parking lots of apartment complexes and examine parked vehicles and, on average, officers find that at least 60 percent of the vehicles are unlocked. 

“Thieves look for the path of least resistance, and by leaving valuables in an unlocked car, it almost invites these criminals to commit such an easy crime,” Tobias said.

Police said there is one simple habit to follow to make sure the car burglary crime rate decreases: Locking car doors.

Marylin Prado said it's a habit that she lives by. 

"I have a very specific spot in my purse. So when I lock my car and put it right into my purse. It's a habit I've done always," Prado said.  

Prado said she was shocked to hear about the dramatic statistics released by GPD.

"The numbers are surprising, and the contents. That's pretty alarming," Prado said.

Officers said that it takes a burglar 20 seconds to open an unlocked car door and take the valuables inside, but it takes only 2 seconds to lock a door. 

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