Reeling from car breaks in '07, cops take warnings door-to-door

When parking your car in the neighborhood, make sure you take out that GPS you got for Christmas, or that shiny iPod you bought yourself, even that spare change you keep for emergencies and tolls.

All of it's got to go. At least that's the message District B-3 police are sending after they saw a 60 percent jump in car break-ins last year.

"This is a crime of opportunity, so we are out there trying to re-educate the people," said Sergeant Timothy Torigian. "They've forgotten step one, which is get the stuff out of the car."

There were 347 cars broken into in B-3 for the year 2007, a 62 percent increase from the year before, according to Torigian, who keeps statistics for the district. Most were smash and grab crimes, meaning someone sees something in the car, breaks a window, and takes off as soon as it is in their hands.

"They don't even take the time to see if the door is unlocked. You can smash a window in a few seconds, so they don't even bother to check," Torigian said.

Since the statistics on the year came in, B-3 has been turning to its citizens for help, pamphleting houses with a letter from Captain James Claiborne and trying to get people to react to the problem.

"We need the public's help. A lot of the violent crimes, like shootings, the public can't do much to help stop, but this is someplace where we really need them," Torigian said. "If you hear a car alarm, I know everyone ignores them, we hear them all the time, I don't even react, but we need to re-educate the people to say something."

The district has been handing out maps that detail where the incidents have been occurring and hosting community meetings where they show statistics and point out trends. The most impacted areas seem to be off of Blue Hill Ave., but the crimes are spread out in the district. Community relations officer Jose Ruiz spent his Saturday morning with a group of youths and other officers, going door to door to tell people about the problem.

"Part of the job is making people aware that this is going on and to be on the lookout," Ruiz said while standing on Glenway Street. "Desperate men take desperate measures."

Ruiz reported that neighbors were grateful to hear the reports, and many took stacks of flyers to help in the effort of notifying people.

Torigian appealed to crime watches and neighborhood residents to "step it up" and make a concerted effort to change the trend.

Torigian said that they have arrested people across the spectrum in age, but mostly they believe it is young people and drug addicts.

"When you can get a bag of crack, for what, five dollars, they aren't breaking into your house and walking off with your big screen," he said.

Police have also noticed a trend where most of the incidents are happening on Sunday and Monday nights, somewhat of a surprise at first.

"We realized that it is probably when the least amount of people are out, it's when you are at home getting ready for work," Torigian explained. "Most of the crime happens between about four at night and four in the morning."

But B-3 officers were also quick to point out that, while they had a jump that concerns them, they are only 5 percent of the number of car break-ins for the entire city. Some other districts have it much worse than B-3, and the rate for car breaks was up city-wide.

Both Ruiz and Torigian pointed specifically to the problem of portable GPS systems many keep in their cars. While it may seem obvious to remove the device and place it in a glove box or other car compartment, what most people don't realize is leaving a bracket or a holder empty is just as much of a danger.

"People see that empty bracket and just assume you hid it in the glove box so they smash the window," Ruiz said. "You have to take the bracket too."