Police warn of car thefts in University communities

Stephanie Kudrle

Crime-prevention specialists advise Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como residents to be more cautious in watching their cars to avoid vehicle theft.

Last week, nine cars were stolen from the neighborhoods. During the same period last year, residents reported five vehicle thefts.

The unusually high number – coupled with high theft numbers in September – prompted the advisory, 2nd Precinct crime prevention specialist Nicole Nelson said.

The 2nd Precinct includes the Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods, as well as all neighborhoods east of the Mississippi River.

Since Sept. 20, thieves have stolen seven vehicles from the Marcy-Holmes and Como areas.

There are no clear reasons for the theft surge, Nelson said, adding it is hard to link the crimes without suspects.

While police recovered some cars, she said, they found more serious crimes.

“We are seeing a trend where vehicles are being stripped for parts,” Nelson said. “It’s a lot different than just taking a joy ride and leaving the car.”

Nelson said thieves often sell the car parts or use them to repair other cars.

The precinct advises residents to park in well-lit areas, to use anti-theft clubs – bars that lock onto the steering wheel – and to pay attention to car alarms.

“There have been many instances where the victim heard the car alarm go off but didn’t do anything about it,” Nelson said.

She said vehicle thefts will likely increase once it gets colder and people start warming their cars.

“In Minnesota, it’s against the law to have a key in the ignition of an unattended vehicle,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t matter if the car is locked, you could receive a ticket for that.”

She also said car owners should remove or conceal items left in vehicles.

“People think if they leave items in a vehicle that is locked, it’s safe,” Nelson said. “That’s just not the case.”

Last week, residents also made 14 reports of stolen items – which ranged from laptops to CDs – from cars in Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes.

Another alternative

Minnesota Crime Watch director Charles Rix said there are also programs in place designed to prevent car theft.

All city residents can participate in “Watch Your Car,” a nationally recognized program that helps detect stolen vehicles.

Rix said people have used the program since the 1990s, and all local agencies are trained to participate.

Cars registered with the program receive identifying windshield stickers, and if the car is on the road between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. – the time most vehicles are stolen – police can pull the car over and card the driver.

Nelson said the program is ideal for people who rarely drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. but might not work for students.

Rix also said people need to take anti-theft precautions seriously, even if they participate in the program.