St. Petersburg, Florida -- Detectives are asking for the public's assistance in stopping a growing problem: the crime of auto burglary.
Since 2012, auto burglaries in the City have increased by 45 percent and detectives report that a vast majority of these incidents could have easily been prevented.
Chaleeta Green says her car was targeted in her own driveway.
"It was just like any other day: I picked my daughter up, dropped her at school, did some errands. I went to get my wallet and it was gone."
Green says she felt violated, "It's my personal space, personal stuff."
St. Petersburg Police say 87 percent of these auto burglaries happen when people forget to lock their vehicles. That includes valuables left in the open beds of pickup trucks etc.
Sargent Brian Taylor said, "When you are asleep, there is someone out there trying door handles... and if they see something they want, they'll take it from you."
And he says is the daylight, it isn't hard to find a parking lot with doors left unlocked and valuables visible. Police say 13 percent of the time criminals will use force.
"When they are smashing out a window, it's usually something they SEE of value there."
Like weapons to be resold or used.
Sargent Taylor said, "Now you have juveniles getting their hands on firearms and it leads to a bunch of other crimes: residential burglary, theft, and home invasion robbery."
Green says this has been a lesson learned. "I feel like a total fool, to be honest."
In an effort to reduce auto burglaries and the additional crimes that can result from them, St. Petersburg Police Department is asking vehicle owners to a take a few relatively easy steps:
- Lock your car and take your keys, even if leaving your car unattended for only a few minutes.
- Do not leave valuables in plain sight inside the car. Take purses, wallets and other valuables with you or secure them in the trunk (unless access to the trunk can be gained via the passenger compartment)
- Do not leave firearms unattended and unsecured in your car. Responsible gun owners must recognize that even in a locked car, auto safety glass is easily broken and does not provide sufficient security to keep a firearm out of the hands of thieves. Once in their hands, YOUR gun can be used to commit a host of violent crimes that can result in serious injury or death.
- Remove, if practical, or at least secure tools and other items of value left unattended in open truck beds or trailers.
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