CLINTON, Iowa (KWQC) - Police in Clinton are urging residents to err on the side of caution after nearly 50 cars were reported stolen in the first half of the year.
Police say they have taken 49 reports of stolen cars. Half or more of those were between parties who knew one another. But they say the rest were crimes of opportunity.
“We’re finding that these thefts are happening because the victims, unfortunately, leave their keys inside the vehicle,” said Det. William Sattler.
Sattler, who grew up in Clinton, says for years leaving virtually everything unlocked was the norm in the city.
“Through my childhood that was pretty common you could leave your doors unlocked to your house, you could leave your keys in your vehicle and never had to worry about your stuff being stolen,” Sattler said.
Now he says it is a habit that needs to be broken.
“And I do believe it was fairly common practice for people to hide a key,” Sattler said. “They had that thing under the wheel well or something like this. That's not a good practice nowadays.”
That means closing up your vehicle, locking the doors and keeping the keys with you.
“Obviously the suspects never have a right to take your vehicle whether or not you leave your keys in it, but in an attempt to better protect our citizens we want to make sure that's one way they can protect themselves and their property.”
Det. Sattler says it is also good practice to keep valuables out of sight, or even better out of the car.
“Many suspects even before they try the door handle they'll look through the window, and so if they see an iPad or a purse or some other belongings of value that are in there, they're going to get in the vehicle and steal it,” Sattler said.
The department says 49 reports of stolen cars is not necessarily an increase for the area.
“What's interesting is I did not intentionally go back and look at previous years,” Sattler said. “What we saw was we were having these reports coming in and we didn't have the benefit of Facebook in the past and we wanted to use the tools available to us and make sure that we were informing as many people as we could of the troubles that we're seeing occurring.”
Clinton Police first told citizens about the problem June 11 on its Facebook page. They hope to encourage more people to lock their cars and take the keys with them.