Two neighborhoods see string of car break-ins

by Town Reminder

Share common thread of unlocked vehicles
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A total of 25 incidents of breaking and entering into motor vehicles occurred in two separate South Hadley neighborhoods over the weekend, resulting in the theft of small, but valuable, items.
Six break-ins were reported to South Hadley Police Friday having occurred Thursday night on Laurie and Susan avenues. Seventeen were reported Saturday having occurred on Friday night on Lincoln, Washington and Roosevelt avenues, on Broad Street (which connects the three avenues), and on Noel and Joan streets (which are connected to one another.) Lyman Street separates Noel and Joan streets from the presidential avenues. One break-in was reported that afternoon on Newton Street as well, which is parallel, in certain areas, to Lyman Street. Two other break-ins were reported Sunday on Dale and Noel streets having occurred Saturday.
In all cases, the motor vehicles were left unsecured or with windows partially open, said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie.
Recovered from these weekend car break-ins was a tan, Coach purse valued at approximately $200, which was found in a nearby front yard. The owner’s credit card and Social Security Card remained inside the purse, but a Samsung digital camera had been taken.
A 12-pack of Coca Cola and some Gatorade had been taken from another vehicle and recovered in the area,” said LaBrie. The South Hadley Detective Bureau will hold some of the recovered items for forensic processing in an attempt to determine the identification of the thief or thieves.
Seemingly minor errors, such as leaving a car unlocked or electronic device chargers in plain view, can result in major losses. Items such as GPS navigation systems, iPods, sunglasses, digital cameras, purses and loose change were taken from the vehicles parked in these two neighborhoods over the weekend between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. All of the taken items could easily have been stashed into a backpack.
These incidents are called crimes of opportunity. Unsuspecting motor vehicle operators often leave their cars unsecured, generally with valuable items left inside. And sometimes, with the number of technological devices teens and even adults carry on their persons daily, its not uncommon for a device to get left behind in a console or slip out of a purse onto a car seat.
The best way to prevent a motor vehicle theft is to simply be aware that they do occur.
Items such as GPS devices, iPods, cell phones, after-market stereo systems and loose change are routinely taken, especially when a vehicle is left unlocked. Why? Because the items are easy to carry and turn around into a quick buck. The items are typically pawned or traded for drugs or small amounts of cash, said LaBrie. “A GPS retails for about $100 to $200. They [thieves] get $10, $20 for it and it gives them drug money,” he said.
Even a locked vehicle is enticing to a thief if valuables are left in sight. These crimes are called “smash and grabs,” and as evidenced in the name, thieves will see an iPod sitting on a car seat, a GPS device in a window or a change drawer full of coin and break a car window to obtain the valuables. Leaving these items out in the open is essentially an invitation for a thief, who usually doesn’t smash a car window just to rummage around inside.
Moreover, leaving a GPS window attachment adhered to a windshield, a suction cup mark or device battery charger plugged into an outlet advertises to a thief the motorist has something of value hidden inside the vehicle.
“We hope this is just a one-time occurrence,” said LaBrie. “It appears to be mostly all on one night with someone just walking down streets of that neighborhood.”
Police patrols concentrated on those particular neighborhoods following the reports to police.
In addition to continuously reminding residents to never leave valuables in their vehicles and to never leave their vehicles unlocked no matter where they’re parked, LaBrie said the next best thing in preventing motor vehicle break-ins is reporting suspicious activity to police.
“A lot of people think they’re bothering us, and they’re not,” he said. “We’d rather go to a residence and have the opportunity to catch someone in the act or at least prevent someone from doing more. We would then spend the next hours focusing on that area looking for someone,” he said. The South Hadley Police Department has access to a K-9 unit, which they would use in such circumstances. “At least it brings us into the proximity of the crime time so we can better investigate what happened and who is out there,” said LaBrie.
One resident reporting a break-in told police they heard a card door close at 11:15 p.m. but did not think anything of it. “With anything unusual like that or a motion detector going on outside or a dog barking in the middle of the night – don’t brush it off and say it was nothing. It might actually be something,” said LaBrie. “We’d rather go there and find nothing.”
The South Hadley Police Department can be reached at (413) 538-8231.