Unlocked car thefts spike in area

Police report auto burglaries — especially door-jiggling — have climbed above normal levels in a sharp January increase.

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  • | 5:14 a.m. February 11, 2016
Lock your car doors.
Lock your car doors.
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WEST ORANGE  One of the most frequent pieces of advice police give is to lock doors, and although the reference is usually to homes, local residents should take note that it applies to cars, too.

In fact, the only area municipality that has not seen a recent uptick in thefts from unlocked cars is Oakland, but Oakland Police Support Services Manager Stacie Quinn said that town still gets its share.

“A number of them have been to vehicles that have been left unlocked,” Quinn said. “Any unlocked car in any municipality is certainly at risk.”

This holds especially true for Winter Garden and Ocoee lately, where this crime called door-jiggling has risen noticeably.

“They’re not breaking in as much, just opening doors left unlocked,” Ocoee Police Lt. Steve McCosker said.
Although a spike in this crime is typical while children are out of school for their winter break — as Windermere Police Chief Dave Ogden attested to with a December spree there — McCosker said an unusual peak had lasted through January, when students had returned to their schools.

Lt. Scott Allen, Winter Garden Police support services commander, said 59 cases of vehicle burglaries opened in the first month or so of 2016 in Winter Garden. Data suggest sprees of this sort are tied to more total auto burglaries than one-offs.

“Of those 59, 11 ... were forced entry, with the rest involving unlocked vehicles,” he said. “Our agency made three arrests, two adult and one juvenile, on January 26, where the subjects were pulling on doors in the Promenade Apartments. When we responded to the call, three vehicles left the area, with two crashing into each other while leaving. We recovered a significant amount of property in this case.”

Through the first week of February, suspects from 25 of those 59 cases had been identified. By comparison, Winter Garden police reported 11 vehicle burglaries from Nov. 26 to Dec. 30.

A look at Ocoee numbers shows a similar result: From New Year’s Eve through Feb. 3, Ocoee police have had 51 cases of vehicle burglaries, compared to 18 in the prior five-week period beginning Nov. 26.

“We can’t control people trying to do this,” McCosker said. “But people can control whether they lock their car doors.”

Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].


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