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Police Commander Asks Residents to Lock Cars and Garage Doors as Vehicle-Related Thefts Rise in Germ

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month, and Commander David Gillespie, of Montgomery County Police District Five in Germantown is asking area residents to be doubley sure to lock car doors and garage doors as vehicle-related thefts are on the rise in Germantown.

“These are crimes of opportunity. We’ve seen a significant increase in theft-from-autos this year over last year,” said Commander Gillespie. “We have had more than 350 thefts-from-autos so far this year in just the 5th District. The trend has been that our suspects are going into vehicles that are mostly unlocked.”

Gillespie said that in June alone, District 5 in Germantown reported 82 separate theft-from-auto events. He said the theft-from-auto incidents were taking place throughout the heart of Germantown from Route 118 to Route 355, in apartment complexes and residential neighborhoods. “We’ve had a lot incidents over by Warring Station Road and the streets around there; we’ve had incidents in the Germantown Park area, and in the Waters Landing area,” he said.

Theft-from-autos and vehicle theft can lead to the commission of additional crimes by the suspect, said Montgomery County Police Department in a press release about National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month. “If a suspect can obtain personal information from items in your vehicle, you are susceptible to becoming a victim of identity theft. Also, thieves have used stolen vehicles in the commission of other crimes,” said MCPD.

Indeed, Commander Gillespie confirms that such crimes are happening in the Germantown area. “These same suspects are also committing burglaries and auto thefts as well. In some of these thefts-from-auto cases, people are leaving spare car keys in the vehicle and folks are stealing the car,” said Gillespie.

“We’ve had a lot of burglaries where suspects have entered the house through the open garage, and then go into the residence through an unlocked interior door to the garage, where they then help themselves to the car keys. Then they take the car and go for a joy ride.”

According to MCPD, in 2014, 753 vehicles were stolen in Montgomery County and approximately 30 percent of these cases, a key was left in the vehicle. In many of these vehicle theft cases, the thieves originally planned only to steal property such as cash, credit cards, and electronics but stole the vehicle when they found the key in the vehicle.