Tips to keep yourself and your car from becoming a victim of a burglar or a thief

COURTESY OF CITY OF PORTLAND - Car prowls and thefts are a real issue in Inner Southeast Portland. Dont leave any items visible in your car, including phone cords - the drug-addicted will break in and steal anything they think they can pawn for a dollar or two. "Car Prowls" – the breaking into of cars and trucks to steal items left visible inside – have long been a real problem in various parts of Inner Southeast.

At one of the recent monthly Woodstock Neighborhood Association meetings, Marianna Lomanto, Crime Prevention Coordinator from what until recently was known as the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, gave a presentation on that subject.

Of the twenty-three people in the room, a dozen hands went up when she asked if they had personally – or if they knew of someone – who had been the victim of a car prowl or theft.

Some of the information about prevention of car prowls is fairly common knowledge, but the advice given is not always followed, in our busy lives, so here it is again: Don't leave ANYTHING in your car visible to prying eyes, including your phone cord; don't leave your car unlocked, although previous advice had suggested leaving it unlocked to avoid broken windows by car prowlers! That would depend on your priorities, no doubt – intact glass or possessions.

Current information shows that any obstacle to a quick theft can send car prowlers on to more convenient locations. And of course, parking in a garage or well-lit area is preferable to leaving your car standing in relative darkness.

Lamanto also discussed car theft. She reported that vehicle theft in Portland is the third highest in the country, possibly encouraged by the legal ruling discussed on the front page of April's BEE. The fact is, there were 7,171 cars stolen in Portland in 2017.

Motives for stealing cars include using them for transportation, or selling parts, according to Lamanto. "The Club", or a brake lock or wheel lock, are some methods of deterrence. Seeing "The Club" locked across the steering wheel usually makes thieves turn away, because of the time it takes to get it off, even if he has a "master" key.

Reporting car prowls or car theft follows the same rules for any crime, which are: Call 9-1-1 if you see the crime in action, or report it to Police Non-Emergency at 503/823-3333 if the crime has already occurred, or if there is just suspicious activity.

When reporting a crime in action, it is important to make clear to the 9-1-1 dispatcher: WHERE, WHAT, WHEN, WHO, WHY – and WEAPONS or WARNINGS.

One of the best steps for car prowl and theft prevention is to organize your block into a "Neighborhood Watch". Two-hour trainings are available for groups of neighbors gathered together to create one. This also provides a good way to get to know each other better, if the block is not already cohesive. For more information about forming a "Neighborhood Watch" call 503/823-4064. Call the same number for general information about crime prevention, or to request presentations on car prowls and thefts for groups or businesses.

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