by Sue Ann Rybak

Philadelphia’s 14th Police District is urging residents to lock their vehicles and secure their vehicle’s key fobs after a recent “uptick” in thefts from autos.

In a telephone interview, 14th District Capt. Nicholas Smith said the district is currently experiencing an increase in thefts from autos in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy. He said there are several reasons for the increase in thefts from autos, noting that many of the vehicles in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy are being left unlocked.

“Some of the surveillance we have recovered shows individuals walking down the street at 3 a.m., checking to see if car doors are locked,” Smith said. “If the vehicle is locked, they move on, and whatever vehicle is open that is the vehicle they steal from. We don’t see too many ‘smash and grabs.’”

He added another reason for an increase in thefts from vehicles is the use of technology to hack key fobs or vehicles.

“Criminals are always looking for new ways to commit a crime,” Smith said.

He said that while the technology is not new, this area is just beginning to be affected by it. He advised residents to keep their car keys away from windows and doors, suggesting that people store their vehicles’ keys in a metal container or wrap them in aluminum foil.

“It’s unfortunate,” Smith said. “I wish there was more I could do beside putting officers out there and increasing patrols.”

He added while the district is experiencing a lot of thefts from autos, compared to this time last year thefts from autos are down 15%.

“This year, we had 412 vehicles broken into,” Smith said. “Last year at this time, we had 484. Although, it seems high we are still down. Even at 412, that’s 412 too many.”

Despite the large number of thefts from vehicles in the weekly crime report, he said his officers are making arrests, but the police need the community’s help.

“In the past week, we have made several arrests of individuals breaking into vehicles,” he said

He recalled a recent arrest where police apprehended a thief during an attempted break-in and discovered he had “belongings from two previous thefts from autos on his possession.”

“It just goes to show you – it’s not just one person or one group of individuals,” Smith said. “It’s just several people breaking into cars.”

He said many of them are just walking up and down the street checking to see if car doors are locked.

Smith said the main message he wants to tell the community is, “We are out there, but if you see something please report it. Please call 911. And if your vehicle is broken into, please report it. I know some of our thefts from autos go unreported. We know about some of the problem areas, but if its not reported we can’t try and combat it.”

He also encouraged residents to attend their monthly Police Sector Area (PSA) 1 meetings, The next PSA meeting will be held at at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, the Sims Recreation Center, 7200 Woolston Ave. in the Cedarbrook section of Philadelphia. To contact the 14th Police District, call 215-686-3140.

Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at sueann@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215-248-8804.

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