Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – On Thursday June 16, 2020, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon wrote a note to Lexington County residents that was in easy to understand language. It reminded all citizens of the county that they bear some responsibility for helping law enforcement protect their own vehicles and their contents from thieves who would steal from them if given a convenient opportunity.
Sheriff Koon did so with some staggering statistics that show how easy the residents of the county have made it for thieves to quickly take items from our vehicles and get away leaving little opportunity for you or law enforcement officers to even know they did it until later on. The items they take are often hard to trace and this only compounds the problem of solving these crimes.
Recently, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department ran statistics from 2019 and found that in cases reported as motor vehicle break-ins, 85% of the vehicle that were hit were unlocked when the crime occurred; That’s a staggering number! Even though law enforcement computer records management systems categorized these as break-ins, some agencies have taken to calling these “let-ins” they are so common. Remember, that’s just statistics from the LCSD. They are more than ten municipal police departments in Lexington County who have their own similar statistics.
In many of Lexington County’s suburb style neighborhoods where streets have long lines of single-family homes lining them, this allows crooks to simply walk through quietly when the majority of the residents are asleep. They try everyone’s vehicle door handles, let themselves into the ones they find unlocked, and help themselves to anything that catches their eye. They take electronics, wallets, pocketbooks, credit cards, cash, and even guns. These are small scores with little reward but the chance of getting caught is also very little. To some crooks, these thefts are a game, and some do it just for the thrill!
Some residents think their doorbell cameras, or a good surveillance system will catch crooks in the act and law enforcement can easily track them down and lock them up. In many cases, a ball cap, a hoodie, or some other simple method of covering their face makes those ineffective. Unless someone can identify the thieves by a distinctive piece of clothing, a tattoo, or some very individual body characteristic, that’s not as easy as you think. Also, if you haven’t recorded the serial numbers of your expensive items, they are virtually impossible to trace and retrieve.
Many of the things crooks steal they keep for themselves or sell in ways that are virtually untraceable. Your item passes from friend to friend for a bit of weed, a few dollars, or even a few packs of smokes! If these thieves can’t get past the security on your expensive tablet, computer, or smart device, sadly enough, what cost you a bundle to buy may end up in the garbage eventually. Think about a juvenile with no responsibility, little conscience , and poor supervision running around with your 9mm semi-automatic handgun with a full clip!
How can you help stop these crimes? Sheriff Koon has offered some simple tips that will drop your chances of being a victim of these people. First, he suggests you always lock your car and take the keys with you. Even if you are stopping at a store for a cool bottle of water or a pack of gum, cut your vehicle off and take the keys with you. It’s actually illegal for you to leave your vehicle idling like that in South Carolina and the opportunity this provides for a thief can be irresistible. Think about that when you crank your vehicle in the drive to warm it up or cool it down and then return to the house to get your coffee, you breakfast sandwich, or bag. Often, that is all the time a crook needs to drive away with your vehicle!
Do the same when you get home. Don’t just lock up, take the keys inside. If you are prone to forget, the sheriff recommends setting a reminder on your smart device or in some finding some other way to remind yourself to check before you go to bed. Make sure you also take any valuables inside with you. Also take the title, just leave the registration. Don’t leave your computer, other valuable electronics, your wallet or purse, and especially don’t leave a gun in the vehicle! Sheriff Koon reminds us our center console or glovebox is NOT a gun safe, even if it's locked!
Sure, bright outside lights help because these “convenience” crooks like to work in the dark. Surveillance systems are also a good idea. Just remember, they are not providing an invisible force field around your things! Don’t tempt bad people. With the hoodie pulled up and the cap pulled down, it still makes a positive identification difficult.
Way back in 1736, Benjamin Franklin wrote in his publication Poor Richard’s Almanac, "God helps those who help themselves." He wasn’t the first person to coin the phrase but that’s who made that saying well known. In 2020, it’s still very appropriate. As hard as our Lexington County law enforcement officers try, they can’t assign an officer to watch your things 24/7/365. Take old Ben and Sheriff Koon’s advice and help yourself as much as possible. Help yourself so you won’t be the victim of a crime of convenience or a vehicle “Let In!”