July 13, 2017 – With auto thefts on the upswing, Oak Park Police are urging residents to take a few simple steps to avoid becoming a victim whether the car is parked or caught up in a bump-and-run ruse that uses a minor traffic accident to steal.
Police say these two types of vehicle theft share a common factor – they are crimes of opportunity too often made easy by keys left in the ignition or remote fobs left inside the vehicle.
“Crimes of opportunity like car and bicycle thefts represent the vast majority of criminal activity in our community,” said Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose. “If the community and Police work together to reduce the opportunities, the number of these types of crimes will drop significantly.”
Bump-and-run car thefts are especially troubling, according to Ambrose, because they can put a potential victim in direct contact with the would-be thief. But unlike a carjacking where the driver is forced from the vehicle, bump-and-run thieves rely on distraction, an approach that has worked at least four times in the last month or so in Oak Park.
Nearly 60 parked cars also have been stolen this year. Police say the doors were unlocked and keys left inside 28 of the vehicles, and the remote key fob was left in the cup holder of at least one.
Chief Ambrose called the bump-and-run a “simple, but often effective scam” that is not new, but becoming a growing problem throughout the region.
“A vehicle taps the bumper of the vehicle ahead, knowing odds are the victim will stop and get out to check for damage, often leaving the engine running,” Ambrose explained. “Then a passenger from the offending vehicle jumps into the victim’s vehicle and both cars drive away.”
Ambrose recommends that anyone involved in a minor accident call 911 immediately so an officer will be dispatched. Pulling into a busy area like a gas station or grocery store also is a good strategy. But whatever one chooses to do, don’t leave the car running or the keys inside, he said.
Parked vehicles left unlocked also are easy targets for would be thieves looking for an opportunity, police say. And victims make it even easier when they leave the keys or the remote fob in the car. Items left visible inside a car like a cell phone, tablet or laptop also are an open invitation to a prowling would-be thief, Police warn.
“I don’t want citizens to worry that they have to constantly think about how to keep their property secure,” Chief Ambrose said. “I want them to make habits of actions like locking car doors and not leaving items visible on the seats, and then they won’t have to think about it. Good habits like these really can make a difference.”
For more information on crime, safety and Police programs, visit www.oak-park.us/police.