Police offer shoppers tips to avoid car break-ins

Thefts tend to spike during holiday season


It can happen in just a few seconds — and usually it does.

Known as “smash and grabs,” car break-ins tend to spike around the holiday season, and Toledo police are reminding shoppers to pay attention to their surroundings and their belongings so as not to become victims.

Lt. Mark King said that the area hardest hit recently is the Monroe Street corridor, from Secor Road west to the city limit. He said busy restaurants and stores tend to attract potential thieves looking for easy opportunity.

“It’s just so quick,” Lieutenant King said. “They can break a window and grab something in two seconds.”

Although he did not have recent statistics available, Lieutenant King said past years have shown that smash-and-grab incidents escalate during busy shopping seasons. It doesn’t have to be an expensive electronic item sitting in the back seat that piques a passing thief’s interest, he added.

“Even if it seems like there’s nothing valuable to you, if they think that something is in there, they’re going to try to take it,” the lieutenant said.

Something as small as spare change left in an ashtray could attract a crook, said Jim Donovan, the owner of Sonic Auto Glass on Laskey Road. Anything visible becomes a target for those looking for things to take, he said.

Mr. Donovan said that he has noticed over his time in business that thieves are becoming bolder. What used to happen on quiet streets in the dark is now happening in busy parking lots in the middle of the day, he said.

“I would say people are getting more bold and less afraid of the repercussions,” he said. “These guys sit in these parking lots. They watch you walk in and as soon as you cross over the door plane, they’re in your car.”

Mr. Donovan said that smash and grabs are becoming more sophisticated. What they once accomplished with blunt force, using heavy objects like hammers, thieves now do with screwdrivers, which can be jammed into a window molding to shatter the glass with pressure.

Even more refined are those who use shards of ceramic spark plugs to noiselessly shatter a window by creating a scratch that rapidly spreads through use of tension, he said.

“If you can see [items] from the outside, they’re going to want it,” Mr. Donovan said. “If there’s nothing they can see, they’ll probably walk by you.”

Lieutenant King said the police department works with area retailers to spread awareness and offer tips. But he said that with crimes such as smash and grabs, “we ask people to try to help themselves.”

In addition to keeping valuables out of sight in vehicles, shoppers should stay aware of their surroundings at all times, the lieutenant said.

Be alert to suspicious people waiting in parking lots as well as those who may approach, he said.

“This is a matter of opportunity,” Lieutenant King said. “These guys are always looking.”

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.