Stats show car thefts, burglaries up in Valley

PANORAMA CITY, Calif. It's estimated that nearly 2 million people live in just the San Fernando Valley and police say that has created a ripe feeding ground for criminals. They say the crime on the rise right now are auto thefts, which is why Tuesday they launched a new program that could actually prevent you out there from becoming the next victim.

They're items we leave in plain view inside our cars all the time: Phone chargers, clothes, even laptops. Los Angeles Police say they are the perfect bait for a criminal.

"People leave their laptops because they use them for work and the next morning, they leave them overnight and a burglar will come by and swipe that in seconds," said LAPD Officer Daryl Blackhall.

Maps show the number of auto theft and burglary incidents in the San Fernando Valley occurring over a week, a month and six months.

Police count nearly 10,000 auto crimes in the area since January. They say criminals are getting into cars by simply smashing windows. The solution: lock it, hide it or keep it.

"Lock your car and if you're so inclined, use a steering-wheel lock which helps to prevent against grand theft auto," said LAPD Dep. Chief Kirk Albanese. "Hide it, leave nothing visible. Hide it within the car, in the trunk or preferably take it with you."

Undercover videos show how often cars are stolen in the Valley. Police recently placed several bait cars in town with the doors unlocked and the keys inside and every time, they were stolen. But the suspects don't go far. Triggered to shut down, the car eventually stops and locks the criminal inside.

"Year to date, we've arrested 389 grand theft auto suspects," said Albanese. "So 389 times somebody has gone to jail stealing someone else's car. We've arrested just with the bait car alone 100 individuals year to date."

Most of these crimes, police say, occur from midnight to 6 a.m. which is why authorities urge everyone to be careful and to keep personal items out of plain sight.

"It's time for the community to step up and take responsibility for what is in their power which is the items in your car," said Jean Sinatra, Community Police Advisory Board.

And police in the Valley say they're going to be doing their part as well by stepping up patrols and placing more bait cars out there, but they really want the public to pitch in as well. If you need a little bit of motivation, it's estimated that it costs a victim, on average, about $1,900 every time their car is broken into.

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