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Law Enforcement Reminds Citizens to Lock Up Valuables, Don’t Leave Keys In Your Car

By Echo Menges

NEMOnews Media Group

Law enforcement officials from throughout the region are reminding the community to be extra mindful of their valuable property. An increase in thievery is common when the springtime temperatures rise.

Throughout the Northeast Missouri region vehicle thefts and property crimes are on the uptick. Police are asking citizens to be extra vigilant to avoid becoming a victim.

According to Justin Jones, Kirksville Police Department Deputy Chief of Police, stolen vehicles from surrounding counties, Knox County and Schuyler County, have recently been recovered in the City of Kirksville. It is common for vehicle thieves to steal a vehicle, drive it until they get to their destination, or the vehicle breaks down, and then discard the vehicle and steal another one.

“The biggest thing is that 99.9 percent of our stolen vehicles are unlocked with the keys in them. We don’t have the ‘Gone In 60 Seconds’ level of criminals in these vehicle thefts. They do not have those specialized skill sets. These guys are not criminal masterminds. They are walking around looking at cars, and when they find one they like with the keys in it – they take it,” said Justin Jones, KPD Deputy Chief of Police.

Edina Police Chief Ryan Bishop concurs with Jones’ assessment adding that anything of value should be locked up and kept out of sight, and that items of value should be removed from seasonal dwellings as well.

“People with hunting camps that are not regularly lived in or checked on tend to be hit more. A lot of times by the time they realize they’ve been burglarized the stolen items have been sold and resold several times over,” said Edina Police Chief Ryan Bishop. “It’s also important to have serial numbers and photos of all items of value, and the information is recorded and kept elsewhere like a safety deposit box or inside of your house.”

According to Schuyler County Sheriff Joe Wuebker, he has noticed an uptick in people attempting to break into vehicles with firearms in clear view and wants to remind folks to remove those, lock them up and keep them out of sight.

“People should not be leaving firearms in view inside of their vehicles. We’ve had several vehicle break-ins because firearms are visible inside,” said Schuyler County Sheriff Joe Wuebker. “We’ve also had a problem with people not knowing the serial numbers of their stolen firearms, which makes it near impossible to recover them.”

Wuebker added that having a photo of the firearm in addition to the serial numbers is beneficial, should it be stolen.

“With the economic downturn conditions that we’re in, and with the high gas prices, property crimes tend to go up. People need to be more mindful of their valuables and the things they have lying around their property, and in their vehicles,” said Bishop.

“Scrap metal prices are ranging up to $200 a ton. For people with unattended property, we are expecting more thefts of scrap metal,” said Wuebker. “With our patrols we are trying to cut thefts. Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere all the time. We count on the public to report things to us as soon as possible. We would rather be called and it be nothing, than not called and it be something.”

“Just lock your car, and don’t leave your key in it. Unless you have something of value in view, they’re not going to take the chance of getting caught by breaking out a window. We have video after video of people car hopping. Reduce your chance of being a victim by locking your stuff up,” said Jones. “A lot of people live in a bubble and they’re distracted from paying attention. As a kid, I grew up on a farm where you didn’t have to worry about these things. Unfortunately, those days are gone.”

“The biggest thing is don’t leave anything of value in open sight,” said Wuebker.

Sheriff Whitney and Captain Holland declined to comment for this story.