Deputy Armando Avina, public information officer for the WCSO, said the burglaries were, in some cases, a result of thieves eyeing uncovered valuables inside the car. Avina said in multiple cases the victims’ cars were left unlocked for an extended period of time or overnight.
“Most of these cases are part of what we call ‘car shopping,’ which is where these thieves know exactly what they’re looking for, which is unlocked cars parked on the roadways,” Avina said. “We have had reports of everything from loose change, electronics, IDs, credit cards, computers and back packs being taken from these cars. These people could probably walk by 100 cars parked in a row and there is a good probability that a high percentage of them are unlocked.”
Avina said ‘car shopping’ can increase during the holiday season and that all residents, Spanish Springs or otherwise, should be wary of what is left in plain sight inside their vehicles. Though locking car doors may seem like an obvious task, Avina said some vehicle owners were unaware the doors were left unlocked.
“Nowadays pretty much every car is unlocked or locked by a key fob, or wireless remote, and those can be very sensitive when in close range of the vehicle,” Avina said. “We have seen reports of parents with young children who like to play with keys and have had their cars ransacked even though they remember locking their doors when they parked.”
Because many wireless remotes do not inform you when the doors are first opened, Avina said many people, not just parents of young children, are susceptible to mistakenly leaving a door unlocked. In a brief poll taken in east Sparks Thursday, nine out of 13 people use a wireless key remote to lock and unlock their cars, many of whom said it is the easiest way to avoid locking the keys inside the car.
Avina said ‘car shopping’ can be done at any point of a 24-hour day in any part of the city and people should not wait until there is a nearby victim --- or becoming a victim themselves --- to take necessary caution.
“This is an advisory for every neighborhood. Just because you haven’t seen anything suspicious or heard about an incident does not mean it hasn’t happened,” Avina said. “We are currently investigating these cases to figure out all we can, but it is more important that Washoe County residents help prevent these crimes from happening by being as cautious as possible.”
From an insurance standpoint, many thefts similar to those in Spanish Springs will go without claims to insurance agencies based of the value of what has been taken. Robert Villegas, media specialist for State Farm Insurance, said each case is different and the deciding factors of a deductible, amount of items lost and out-of-pocket expense usually come into play.
“Unless the damage and the value of the stolen items is equal to or greater than the deductible, then filing a claim may not be the way to go and bearing the loss themselves is likely less costly,” Villegas said via email Thursday and added that increased or decreased protection always has a price. “Some folks increase their deductibles to save money on their coverage, but to do so is to increase the level of risk they face. But an insured always has the right to file a claim --- it is their choice to pursue. In many occasions the customer decides based on their specific circumstances.”
The WCSO offered these tips in a media release Thursday to help residents keep their vehicles and valuables safe:
- Lock the door when leaving the car. Still one of the most common issues with vehicle burglaries.
- Don’t leave valuables in the car. If valuables must be left in a vehicle, be sure to lock them in the trunk or glove compartment not under jackets or blankets behind the seat as that is one of the first places criminals look.
- Leave no trace. Don't leave any sign that there might be valuables hidden in a vehicle by leaving items such as docking stations or connector cables visible. Leave nothing in plain sight that might make the vehicle a target for thieves, not even loose coins or a CD.
- Be sure to set the car alarm or anti-theft devices. These are still effective deterrents against criminals who are looking for the easiest target.
- Keep windows completely closed. Partially open windows may make your vehicle an easier target for thieves.
For more information on vehicle security or more tips on how to keep safe, visit www.washoesheriff.com.