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Car prowls surge during the holidays

While you’re out completing your holiday shopping and tackling other errands in crowded parking lots this December, it’s best to protect your valuables.

Vehicle break-ins — often called “car prowls” in our public safety log — tend to increase during the holidays, according to local law enforcement, and that’s understandable. After all, criminals like presents, too. Especially when they’re left in your automobile in plain sight.

These sort of crimes happen throughout the year, so safety tips can be useful no matter the month. The Albany Police Department, for example, saw an uptick in car prowl cases in November that was completely unrelated to the holidays.

Often, the vehicles that are targeted in car clouts are unsecured. That’s a familiar theme for fans of the “cop logs.” More than 80 percent of unlawful entry of a motor vehicle cases in Albany involved unlocked cars and pickups, according to the Albany Police Department. Similar figures also apply throughout the mid-valley.

We read about people losing valuables from their rigs when they leave them for just a minute or two. Going inside a convenience store to buy a soda? Lock your car.

Also, if you’re defrosting your windows of your vehicle on a chilly morning and your vehicle is running, resist the urge to put it in neutral and go back into the house for another cup of coffee or to watch SportsCenter for just a little while longer. Don’t leave your auto unattended for even a moment. Every year, cars are stolen under that exact scenario in Linn and Benton counties.

Agencies sometimes deal with broken windows during car prowls, but in those cases, a purse, backpack, duffel bag or other item usually has been left on a seat in plain sight. This time of year, it’s often a collection of just-purchased Christmas gifts.

A note on bags in cars: You might know there’s nothing valuable inside, but crooks don’t, and they’ll take a risk to see if they can hit the jackpot and score a computer or something else valuable.

Some people think they’re clever by throwing a blanket over items left in vehicles, but that also attracts criminals, according to law enforcement officials Crooks can spot the lumps underneath the blanket and your clumsy attempt to hide something. And that something must be pretty darn good if you’re making the effort to conceal it.

Porch pirates also can use the holidays to snatch packages containing cyber deals. Track your packages and remove them from outside as soon as possible. If you’re regularly using online retailers or getting boxes delivered by the U.S. Post Office, UPS or FedEx, consider installing a doorbell security camera or other video monitor.

Over the next few weeks, Albany Police Department volunteers will head out to local parking lots and place air fresheners on vehicles reminding owners to “Lock it or lose it.” The air fresheners also have information about APD’s “9 p.m. routine” campaign. At that hour of night, residents are urged to bring valuables inside, check their mail, close garage doors, lock vehicles and their home, and turn on outside lights.

It’s a valuable reminder to protect yourself from crime, no matter the season.