Vehicle thefts drastically rise in Dickinson
DICKINSON - Dickinson residents may not put much thought into vehicular theft in the area, but research shows individuals should be taking steps to secure their property.
Dickinson Police Department Investigator Chris Coates said motor vehicle thefts within Dickinson city limits have sharply increased in recently months.
"We usually average four or five auto thefts a year. Now since January, we've had 15," Coates said. "Fifteen in just a little over half a year is a substantial jump."
Vehicle theft happens more often than one might imagine.
"According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a vehicle is stolen every 26 seconds," Coates said. "Vehicle theft is the most costly property crime in the United States estimated at $7.6 billion dollars annually."
Coates said only 13 of the vehicles stolen this year have been recovered. No charges have been formally filed for any of the car thefts.
"All those cases are ongoing investigations. None of them are closed," Coates said.
Coates said that all of the vehicles that have been stolen this year were left unsecured by owners.
"If a vehicle is unlocked, and the keys are in it, the temptation is a lot greater to enter that vehicle and take it," Coates said. "It's a target of opportunity for a thief. They don't have to break a window or anything like that."
Coates said there has never been a report in Dickinson where a stolen vehicle was "hot wired" or where an ignition by-pass tool was used to start the vehicle.
Vehicle owners had left keys in 12 of the vehicles stolen this year and one of the vehicles could be operated with a start button.
Coates said access was gained to one of the vehicles after the keys had been stolen from inside the victim's residence during a burglary.
"One vehicle was towed away," Coates said. "It was sitting on somebody's property, and they took the vehicle."
The vehicles seem to have been taken simply because they were easily accessible.
"I think that a lot of the thefts ... that we're dealing with right now have to do with joyriding, thrill seekers," Coates said.
He added that many of the vehicles were out of gas when they were recovered.
Coates said personal items left inside vehicles, such as CDs and purses, may further tempt thieves to enter a vehicle.
Of the 13 vehicles recovered, five had personal property stolen from within the vehicle and four of those vehicles were found damaged.
"What we want to do is encourage people to not only lock their doors and take their keys out, but also remove their valuables from their cars," Coates said.
Coates said visible weapons add to the risk of vehicle theft, especially gun racks mounted in rear windows.
"Even if the vehicle may be locked, the temptation will be there for a thief to break into that vehicle to take that rifle if they can see it," Coates said.
Alarmingly, 14 of the vehicles stolen this year were directly outside the victim's residence when they were stolen. Coates said they were usually taken from driveways or near the front of the home. One incident included breaking into a garage and stealing a motorcycle.
Coates said that none of the victims actually witnessed the thefts.
"They come home and they find their vehicle missing, or they wake up the next morning and find the vehicle is gone," Coates said. "Sometimes a family member might assume that another family member took the car ... until the two of them talk later on."
While a time of day does not seem to be preferred in the thefts, location seems to have played a role in the incidents. Only two automobiles have been reported stolen from north of Villard.
Coates said hiding keys on vehicles in magnetic containers or underneath floor mats is not a wise practice.
"Car thieves are aware of hidden keys," Coates said.
He added that auto owners can greatly reduce the risk of having their vehicle stolen.
"I do believe that if people did take steps to lock their doors, remove their keys, make sure their windows are all up and that the vehicle is parked in a well lighted area, all those things contributing will drastically reduce our auto thefts here in Dickinson," Coates said.
He added that any valuables should be taken out of unattended vehicles.
"Citizens of our community are asked to take that extra step in securing their property," Coates said. "Preventing crime is the responsibility of all of us."
Coates said GPS systems can greatly help relocate a vehicle.
"We were able to recover a vehicle using the ... General Motors GPS tracking program," Coates said.
However, utilizing such a program may require extra funds.
"If they didn't purchase the GPS tracking program, we're not able to use it," Coates said.
To aid in the recovery of a vehicle, Coates said auto owners should keep photographs of their vehicles, as well as know the license plate number.
Anyone who has any questions or information regarding vehicular thefts can contact Coates at 701-456-7755.