Number of auto burglaries remains high in 2016

Hotspots include downtown, Costco and In-N-Out parking lots

Lock your doors and don't leave anything valuable inside -- that's the message the Mountain View Police Department is sending out to city residents after receiving more than 300 reports of auto burglary in 2016. Most of the thefts are reported out of some of the city's busiest and most bustling parking lots, and thieves frequently nab more than $400 in personal belongings in the heist.

Police received 342 reports of auto burglary in Mountain View in 2016, which is down from the 475 reports last year but remains higher than the historic average going back to 2010, according to the department's crime statistics. Despite the overall decrease from 2015, some parking lots got hit unusually hard by thieves over the last year.

Far and away, the biggest hotspots for auto burglaries are in parking lots near Highway 101 along the northern end of Rengstorff Avenue. The Charleston Plaza shopping center, combined with the Costco and In-N-Out Burger parking lots next to the freeway entrance, had 89 reported cases of auto burglary in 2016. Other locations rife with theft include the downtown parking lots (66 cases) the San Antonio Shopping Center (22 cases) and the Century Cinema 16 parking lots (20 cases).

Part of the problem is that people are leaving valuable belongings in their cars, or are leaving their cars unlocked, said police spokeswoman Katie Nelson. More often than not, auto burglaries are crimes of opportunity, meaning thieves will make the decision to grab something from a parked car in the spur of the moment, making it all the more important to leave anything expensive out of sight.

The potential for theft is particularly high during the cold winter months, Nelson said, because residents might decide to wait for their car to heat up and leave it unattended with the keys in the ignition.

"People will turn on their cars and go back inside before they leave, and that's never a good idea," she said. "We haven't had any cars stolen because of that yet this season, but it's opening up access to the car."

Although reports of auto burglary are up, that doesn't necessary mean each case involves the theft of personal belongings, Nelson said. It could be that the culprit entered the vehicle and quickly searched through the contents, or grabbed loose change. In other cases, it's the theft of an iPhone, laptop or other expensive digital device that was left inside. Historically, a little over half of reported auto burglaries in Mountain View include the theft of at least $400 in belongings.

It's no surprise that the Costco and In-N-Out parking lots are big targets for auto burglary, Nelson said, because of the close proximity to Highway 101 and the fact that they are both bustling and constantly busy.

"Thieves are looking for easy access, and they're looking for a high likelihood of finding something. They think these parking lots are the places to go," she said.

Police are advising residents to remember to roll up windows and lock their cars when they park -- even if it's in a driveway or garage -- and park in well-lit areas whenever possible. Valuable belongings including wallets, cell phones, laptops and personal paperwork should be either stored in the trunk ahead of time or carried out with the driver, or at least kept out of sight when the car is unattended.


9 people like this
Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:23 pm

"Part of the problem is that people are leaving valuable belongings in their cars"

So the problem is that there is stuff in the cars. Funny, I thought the problem is that there are evil dudes out there who think it's okay to rob others. But that's just me.

1 person likes this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

This story includes the reported thefts. Cumbersome procedures and a lack of response from police dissuade some from reporting minor thefts.

Like this comment
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 7, 2017 at 4:21 pm

A very good rule of thumb is anytime you plan to park is to put your valuables in the trunk or some storage area before you get to your destination. I've seen on TV where robbers show how they watch people to put stuff in their trunk or try to hide things in the glove box or under their seat when they park. Those nefarious experts can easily see that.

3 people like this
Posted by Jesse
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 8, 2017 at 11:27 am

My hometown in Texas had to institute sundown laws to address a spate of auto burglaries. Not saying it's the right thing to do but it was far more effective than telling people to hide their possessions.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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