2 simple ways to prevent car burglaries

Titusville PD says it's Getting Results on Crime

Amy Matthews, the public information officer at the Titusville Police Department, admitted that just about everyone has heard the message before. The problem is - they're not listening.

Matthews shared surveillance video with News 6 from a home in Titusville that shows a minivan rolling down a dark street late at night. A young man jumps out, runs up to a car parked in the driveway, tugs the door handle, and when he realizes it's locked he moves on.

"The only reason that car wasn't burglarized is because the car was locked," said Matthews. "They moved on to the next car. Unfortunately they got right in because that car was unlocked."

Matthews said after crunching the numbers, she discovered 85 percent of all cars burglarized and stolen in Titusville were left unlocked.

So Matthews started a campaign to change the numbers. She printed a simple, well-worn phrase - a phrase that so many people have heard at some point - on large banners. She wrote "Lock it or Lose it" on the banners and then hung them everywhere - at gym entrances, parking lot entrances, shopping centers, even over Titusville's Main Street. At a local McDonald's, the sign that usually advertises $.99 cheeseburgers read "Lock it or Lose it."

Matthews also enlisted the help of sixth-graders to design the "Lock it or Lose it" logo.

"Kids tell their parents 'lock you car mom!'" said Matthews. "They're going to help us get the word out."

Matthews said besides locking your car, she urges you to not leave behind valuables. Central Florida has also seen a recent rash of smash and grabs where thieves shatter a car window and grab a purse, change, electronics, or other items visible inside the car.

Shattering a window with a tool known as a "punch" takes milliseconds and is so quiet it won't wake you up, Matthews said. That's how thieves can hit an entire parking lot or neighborhood in minutes without being detected. If a vehicle appears empty, a thief will have no incentive to break the window, said Matthews.

The theft of Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs' husband's vehicle was recorded on surveillance video earlier this year. The video shows two young men pulling on the handles of Jacobs' vehicles in her driveway. Two of the cars are locked and are left untouched, but the third is unlocked. The thieves find the keys in the console and drive off with the SUV.

Matthews said blasting the "Lock it or Lose it" message across town has cut car thefts and burglaries in half since last month.

"We're getting results," said Matthews. "Our crime stats are down. Our vehicle thefts are down 25 percent, vehicle burglaries down 47 percent. The word is out there, we're getting results."

Matthews said spending less time taking reports and investigating car crimes allows officers to spend more time preventing and solving other crimes.

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