WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Westchester County officials are urging residents to lock up their cars following an epidemic of vehicle thefts and larcenies from unlocked, parked cars.
In recent months, victims have reported items such as loose change, electronics, and sunglasses that have been stolen from vehicles in Westchester. Additionally, more than 500 vehicles were stolen in the county last year, according to the District Attorney’s office.
In total, 682 vehicles were stolen in Westchester in 2016. This year, there have already been 174 vehicles reported stolen. The DA said that their current investigation determined that at least one-third of recent thefts in the county are the result of an owner leaving a key in a parked, unlocked vehicle.
For every vehicle stolen with a key, the DA’s office has estimated that at least six others have been entered, searched and may have had items removed.
According to the DA’s office, suspects are usually between the ages of 16 and 18, and the stolen vehicles appear to be used for transportation to commit other crimes and are often rented out. The property stolen from those vehicles is often sold for a profit, the DA said, noting that the vehicles are typically recovered in lower Westchester and the Bronx.
The DA’s office is expected to release video of the crimes in progress soon, which will show groups of males walking through a neighborhood, attempting to open doors of cars. Locked cars are reportedly left alone, while unlocked cars are entered, searched and the thefts occur.
Stolen vehicles are used as transportation, rented out to friends and also used to commit more thefts, according to the DA. The vehicles are usually recovered in Mount Vernon or in the northeast Bronx and are usually intact, though some have been damaged in motor vehicle accidents.
- No serious injuries have been reported in these thefts.
- The DA’s office described the individuals committing the crimes as “kids in a candy store.”
- In an effort to combat simple vehicle thefts, the DA’s office has issued a series of common sense suggestions:
- Take your keys or key fob with you.
- Remove or hide your valuables.
- Take your keys.
- Close all the windows.
- Lock your doors.
- Activate your alarm.
- Park in a well-lit area, if possible.
- Don’t keep garage door openers in the car if not parking in the garage.
- Never leave your car unattended and running.
“These are crimes of opportunity. Don’t give criminals the opportunity.”