Massachusetts police target unlocked cars in new program

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Unlocked cars attract thieves -- and police officers. Image: billaday/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Following an upswing in thefts from unlocked cars, police in Beverly, Mass., began locking unlocked parked cars — even those with the keys still in them. The police say it is a well-intentioned reminder, but some car owners are crying interference.

Program began mid-October

The policy began in mid-October when the Beverly police recognized that about 90 percent of car break-ins involved unlocked doors. Beverly Police Spokesman David Costa explained the new policy:

“Basically what the idea was is to have the officers pick an area of their beat to get out and walk around for a half hour and check car doors. If they find it open or if anything is in plain sight — if someone leaves a GPS right out in the open or and iPod in the open — we just check it off. Then we lock the car.”

Warning notices issued

Officers also left a “green warning notice” detailing the day and time the car was checked by the officer. The notice also explained the program and included a list of the “hot” items that thieves go for first in unlocked cars.

“What surprises us is not so much the unlocked doors but the stuff people leave in their car when it is unlocked, wallets purses, laptops,” Costa said. “I can’t believe people leave their wallets and stuff in the car.”

According to the local WBZ-TV news, about 100 warning were issued the first weekend the policy went into effect. That roughly translates to about 20 percent of all cars checked.

Some residents outraged

Outraged residents, however, feel like they have the right to leave their doors unlocked if they so choose. Many feel safe leaving their cars unlocked because they consider their suburban town safer and more friendly than a large city.

“It’s a little creepy, but I think that it has best intentions,” one resident told local TV news WBZ-TV.

‘Dramatic drop’

In the two weeks following the initial weekend of the program, Costa said there were only three car break-in reports. There were 12 reports on the week before the program began. “It seems like a pretty dramatic drop to me,” Costa said.

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