More than $80,000 worth of property stolen from vehicles in Washington County

November 11, 2011|By DAN DEARTH |

In the last nine months, more than $80,000 worth of property has been stolen from parked vehicles in Washington County, according to county Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore.

About 295 — or roughly 85 percent — of the 350 vehicles from which items were reported stolen were unlocked at the time of the thefts, Mullendore said.

That data was compiled from Jan. 1 to Oct. 31. It does not include the city of Hagerstown, or the towns of Boonsboro, Hancock and Smithsburg.

"The message to our citizens needs to be that they should lock their vehicles whenever they are unattended," Mullendore said.

"Most of our citizens lock their homes when they leave, but fail to lock their vehicles overnight at their homes, and yet they have valuable property inside the vehicle."

Popular items among thieves include laptop computers, GPS units, purses, wallets and money, Mullendore said.

Thieves see a fast and easy score with unlocked vehicles, and typically move past locked ones because of the attention it draws during a break-in.

The targeted areas include apartment complexes and neighborhoods across the county, he said.

"It happens anywhere there are a number of vehicles within a short distance of each other," he said.

Mullendore said investigations have shown that neighbors hear or notice something suspicious in 25 to 30 percent of the vehicle break-ins that occur, but they fail to call the police.

He said the sheriff's office would rather respond to a call that turns out to be nothing than show up the next day to find that something has been stolen.

"If something doesn't look right, call the (police,)" he said. "We'd rather respond to something benign. We'd rather check it out."

With the holidays approaching, Mullendore said people should avoid leaving presents in a vehicle in plain sight.

He recommended that if people can't take their valuables inside a home, they should at least lock those items in the trunk and park in a well-lighted area.

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