EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 30, 2013

Thieves target unlocked cars in citywide spree

Police warn residents after dozens of incidents reported

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Police are warning residents to keep their car doors locked as thieves go on a spree in neighborhoods across the city.

Police said there been more than 40 reports in the last two weeks of thefts from vehicles left unlocked, many outside homes.

When such thefts occurred in the past, they tended to be in concentrated urban areas such as downtown, but the latest spree also involves higher-income areas of Bradford, police said.

Thieves have taken items such as GPS devices and other small electronic items, as well as spare change, wallets, pocketbooks, laptop computers and other valuables.

Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for people walking down streets who check car doors to see if they are open. Residents are asked to notify police immediately if they see such activity.

“There is definitely more than one person or more than one group responsible,” said police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson. “They go out at night into neighborhoods, looking for unlocked cars.

“Mostly they try the doors, and if not locked, they look in the car for items they can take,” he said.

Police have seen an increase this year in these kinds of incidents compared to last year.

Thompson said that in the past, such thefts occurred mostly around the inner city, but recently they’ve been happening on the outskirts, including in Bradford, where breaks were recently reported in the neighborhood of Sunrise Drive, Rainbow Drive and Yellow Brick Road, as well as in the Salem Street area and neighborhoods close to the Bradford Country Club, including Montvale Street, Orchard Hill Road and Bradford Green Way.

“For the most part, there is no damage as they are just trying the door,” Thompson said. “In some of these breaks people left their wallets, expensive jewelry and other items in their unlocked cars.”

He said one victim left his wallet containing $500 in his unlocked vehicle.

“If you leave your purse or computer on your seat, and your door is locked, someone might break the window to get in,” he said. “But if there is nothing visible and your door is not locked, chances are they are going to enter the vehicle and find whatever is inside.”

Thompson said these are the types of crimes police need the public’s help in preventing and solving, noting a recent incident that led to the arrest of a suspect. The owner of a vehicle parked on Wingate Street told police he saw a man trying to open the door of his vehicle. Police pursued the suspect and arrested him.

“If you see someone walking down your street that you don’t recognize and they appear to be touching car doors, call us right away,” Thompson said.

You can notify police of suspicious activity by calling 978-373-1212. You can also leave a message on the police anonymous tip line by dialing 978-373-1212 and following the prompts.