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The department urges owners to take precautions and use common sense to avoid theft

PMG FILE PHOTO  - Police are warning residents to lock their doors, hide valuables and park in well-lit areas to protect their vehicles from theft or break in. The Lake Oswego Police Department is warning residents to be hyper aware of their surroundings and take precaution to keep their valuables safe as the community experiences an uptick in crimes involving vehicles.

Over the past month, police have received reports of eleven cars that were broken into or robbed while unlocked, six vehicles stolen and two license plates taken.

According to LOPD Lieutenant Darryl Wrisley, those numbers are slightly above average and should cause residents to think twice about the safety of their vehicle.

"(Car thefts and break-ins) go in spurts a lot of times. Usually when the weather is better, we have an uptick in criminal behavior," Wrisley told The Review. "Car break-ins are usually a younger group, generally, but not always. Vehicle thefts are typically a little bit older group. It depends on why they're being stolen. Sometimes they're being stolen for joy rides, sometimes it's to get from point A to B, for transportation. Sometimes they're taking them to chop shops where they're parting them out."

While being the victim of a car theft or break-in doesn't necessarily mean you've had to come face-to-face with danger, it's a situation that can make people feel uneasy or violated. Wrisley says there a few simple steps and precautions you can take to ensure you don't make yourself of an easy target.

Many of those tips might seem like common sense, but those easy steps are often the ones we easily forget.

"A lot of it is just being aware of your surroundings. A lot times, theft from vehicles are crimes of opportunity," Wrisley said. "Don't make it inviting."

The first piece of advice is simple: lock your vehicle. Leaving your car unlocked overnight or even just in the parking lot of the grocery store is an easy way for a thief to get into your car and take valuable possessions.

Wrisley says to never leave valuables — wallets, purses, wrist watches, headphones, golf clubs, ski equipment, sporting goods, etc. — in plain sight. Put your valuables in the trunk, but make sure you do it before you arrive at your destination so that nobody can see you physically putting your stuff in there.

If you have an alarm system, make sure you're using it. Most newer vehicles are armed once you hit the lock button, but some older cars require you to hit your lock button multiple times before the alarm is turned on. Check to make sure you're using your alarm in the right way, because, as Wrisley says, alarms do work to deter theft.

Many stores and buildings have security cameras that face their parking lots. If you can identify where those are, try parking in range of those cameras to give yourself a bit of added protection.

If you're parking on a street at night, try to park nearest to a street lamp in order to reduce the likelihood of your car becoming a target.

More often than not, newer cars have chipped keys that only allow you turn the ignition if the key is present, but there are aftermarket technologies, Wrisley said, that can keep your car safe by blocking the ignition module relay unless another button is pushed. There are also many options for tracking your vehicle like HUM from Verizon — an app you can use to always track your vehicle. The price of these technologies has come down considerably over the past 10 years and allow almost any access to higher forms of car

security. The old-school wheel lock is also an effective tool against car theft, Wrisley

said.

When LOPD begins to see an uptick in this type of crime, they begin to piece together each individual report to see if there's a pattern. There was a rash of break-ins last fall at Hazelia Field which seemingly came to a halt after LOPD made a single arrest.

According to Wrisley, when they see an uptick in thefts and break-ins like they currently are, there's a few measures they can put into place that help them catch thieves in the area.

"The first thing we do is try to map and look for patterns. Obviously our patrol guys are out there 24 hours a day, so we try to hit the harder hit areas with higher visibility as a deterrent," he said. "We'll also send detectives out to sit in unmarked vehicles to do surveillance. We use bait cars, we have items that have tracking devices in them that we put inside cars, so if someone steals it we can track them. The trackers are impossible to find so they wouldn't know if they're in there. We've had cameras that are mobile that we place somewhere for several days at a time, very high resolution cameras, we can mount and watch remotely at our desks."

At the end of the day, Wrisley said, being in the right place at the right time plays a huge role in catching thieves, which makes identifying a pattern extremely important work.

"(This uptick) absolutely is concerning for us," Wrisley said. "All crimes here are concerning for us. Our job is not only to keep the community safe, but to make them feel safe also."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Sam Stites at 503-479-2375 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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