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Why your car comes with a lock

A rash of vehicle break-ins swept the Rogue Valley in July, prompting police to warn motorists to lock car doors and keep windows rolled up.

Medford police investigated 89 thefts from vehicles in July, up from 39 during the same month last year. Other law enforcement agencies have reported similar problems.

"This is just a big jump," said Medford Lt. Bob Hansen.

Stolen items included wallets that had drivers' licenses and credit cards, satellite radios, cameras, prescription drugs, GPS units, cash and a handgun.

Most of the thefts have occurred at night when people leave their windows rolled down or doors unlocked.

"I personally think it's tied to the heat," Hansen said.

He said he visited Medford's U.S. Cellular Community Park over the weekend for a game and witnessed firsthand a number of vehicles with windows open.

Medford resident Leigh Johnson now understands the importance of keeping his truck secured.

The 42-year-old lives on a quiet street near Rogue Valley Medical Center. When he left a window open in his truck a month or so ago, a wallet and his sunglasses were snatched at night.

"I wasn't going to report it because it was so stupid," he said. "Silly rabbit."

His neighborhood was hit for the second time over the weekend when vehicles parked in front of three houses were nailed by an early morning intruder.

Johnson speculates that kids are the most likely culprits.

Since the thefts, he said, the neighborhood is on alert, though at least two vehicles on the street had their windows partially open Monday.

"People have to be vigilant," he said.

Hansen said police are still investigating the cases and aren't sure if the thefts are part of a ring or are random incidences.

Sheriff's officials also reported four vehicle break-ins Sunday at Emigrant and Applegate lakes.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson noted: "We have also seen significant increases in vehicle thefts where doors were left open and windows were rolled down."

In addition, thieves have been entering houses when they have found doors or windows left open, Carlson said. Wallets and other valuables have been stolen, she said.

She said the thefts don't appear to be situated in any given area, but are spread out over the valley.

In Ashland, police investigated six break-ins over the weekend.

In one case, someone entered three vehicles in the 500 block of Taylor Avenue and took money and CDs, police said. In the second case, two sets of golf clubs were stolen out of a car parked in the 100 block of Hargadine Street. Someone also stole items from a car in the 600 block of Morton Street.

Medford police officials advise residents to keep vehicles locked up even when they are parked outside a residence. Valuables should be stored out of sight in a locked space such as the trunk.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com. Hannah Guzik also contributed to this story.

Medford resident Leigh Johnson lost his wallet and sunglasses to a thief last month when he left his truck's window open at night. Johnson says he's learned his lesson, but police say others still aren't locking up and that thefts from unsecured vehicles are on the rise. - Bobo