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New Year's Day: No. 1 holiday for car thefts

December 31, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
New Year's Day is the number one holiday for car thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Some experts blame that statistic on drinking, saying it makes people leave their keys in the ignition or causes them to forget to lock car doors.You leave some valuable possessions on the seat of your car. But the door is locked, so what's the worry?

It takes only about eight seconds with almost no noise to break the car window and steal the items. Crimes of opportunity like this happen all too often.

"Statistically, in North Hollywood, we have 55 burglary-theft of motor vehicles per week. We want to reduce that, we want to harden the target, we want to let the public know, don't leave valuables in the car," said LAPD Detective Tim Shaw.

In the LAPD North Hollywood Division Stolen Property Room, you can find everything from laptops to cameras to iPods to GPS units -- very popular with thieves and often very easy for them to find and to take.

"People walking down the street or through a parking lot happen to peer into vehicles and see items of value that are laying there," said LAPD Capt. Jon Peters.

To prove the point, Detective Shaw took me to a home-improvement store parking lot and we walked around the lot looking for items in vehicles that would tempt a thief. It didn't take very long before we found what we were looking for.

"Here someone left their briefcase that may or may not have credit cards in it, and again, we saw how quickly someone can break into a car," said Shaw. "People need to take their valuables with them. He's got a GPS system in here. He took it off the windshield at least, but again, this is something that someone will break in, take that item very quickly, and be gone before anyone notices."

And criminals notice everything, including cables and docking stations which are a signal something of value is still in the car.

"Someone might smash this window, go for the connector cable, then go through the glove box, underneath the seat, because a lot of people think, 'Oh, I'll put it under the seat, they won't notice,'" said Shaw.

One suggestion Shaw has is to buy an inexpensive case, then put your expensive electronic items inside. That way you can simply take them with you. They like to say "Move it or lose it."

Remember: It takes just seconds.