Vehicle burglaries: the “crime of opportunity” on the rise | News
St. Helens Police are reporting an increase in vehicle break-ins, commonly referred to by authorities as hovering cars.
St. Helens Police Chief Brian Greenway said the increase was a national trend.
“Suspects take advantage of cars prowling as a crime of opportunity which is generally low risk on their part with potentially high reward in terms of stolen vehicles, electronics, debit and credit cards and cash,” he said.
According to Greenway, car stalkers tend to occur in residential areas where a suspect or suspects can test many vehicles in a short time.
A quick arrest can vary from case to case and depends on many factors, Greenway said, including whether there is quality surveillance footage, whether stolen items are reported missing, whether stolen property is reported as found, whether the police are able to track the use of credit cards or stolen phones, etc.
Cases can involve weeks of investigative work.
“Our ability to investigate may also depend on whether we have priority calls and enough officers or detectives available to work on the case immediately,” Greenway said. “Our officers are thorough and investigate these calls, but reports of child abuse, rape, elder abuse, domestic violence, DUIIs, etc., are our first priority.”
Greenway said drive-by suspects can range from a single offender to out-of-town groups.
“Anyone can commit this type of crime,” he said. “In St. Helens, we have seen several instances of groups of individuals arriving from outside St. Helens and conducting car patrols before leaving the area.”
Solving the crime and putting the offender in jail can also be difficult, according to Greenway.
“Our St. Helens investigators are doing their best to ensure that we gather strong evidence to bring charges against a suspect who will appear in court,” he said. “Apart from our investigative work, the sentencing and time a suspect serves is not within our control as a law enforcement agency.”
Greenway’s recommends that residents and businesses take three steps to avoid being the victim of a car break-in: Lock up. To take. Hide.
“Lock your car. Take your keys with you. Hide your things,” he said. “If possible, do not leave personal effects in a vehicle. Report thefts occurring in St. Helens or any suspicious activity to the non-emergency dispatch at 503-397-1521.
What to do if you are a victim
If you approach your vehicle and see a damaged door, broken glass, or other signs of vehicle tampering, do not get in or out of the vehicle. Document what you see from outside the vehicle.
Take photos of the damage and list what the vehicle might be missing. This information will help the police and help your insurance company determine reimbursement, according to the SafeWise website.
Following your assessment of vehicle damage and missing items, file a report with the police. Your assessment can help officers track down the suspect or suspects.
If you spot a vehicle burglary suspect, Scapoose (SP) police recommend that you do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. If an alleged crime is in progress, call law enforcement and provide as much information as possible, such as gender, race, age, height, weight, hair color and length, facial hair color and length, clothing colors and style, and identifying marks such as tattoos or piercings.
If you can, indicate the direction of travel if the thief flees. If the thief absconds in a vehicle, give the description of the vehicle and a registration number.
Although Greenway said the SHPD has not seen burglaries increase in the same way that cars are prowling, he still issued the following preventative measures.
“Burglaries are also generally a crime of opportunity,” he said. “Lock your home or business. Install security measures such as surveillance images or alarms if you are able. Do not leave valuables visible from a window. Avoid posting messages on social media indicating that you are out of the area or on vacation while you are away.