On behalf of the Collier County Sheriff's Office, I am asking for your help.
But first, a little background. Here's a fact: Criminals take the path of least resistance. If a criminal sees a locked car with no valuables inside, he is likely to move on to an easier and more profitable target.
I am asking you to do two things to help us keep Collier County the great and safe place we all enjoy. First, always lock your vehicle, even when it is parked in your own driveway. Second, never leave valuables in your car — particularly in plain view.
We are seeing an increase in vehicle break-ins in Collier County. Criminals are making off with iPads, cash, cellphones and other items that are left in vehicles. During the four-week period between Oct. 15 and Nov. 11, we experienced 81 vehicle burglaries in unincorporated Collier County and Everglades City. That's up from 54 during the same period in 2011.
And this is significant: More than 70 percent of the vehicles that have been burglarized in Collier County this year were unlocked at the time of the break-in. By merely locking your doors, you reduce your odds of being a victim.
The good news is that we are making arrests in many of these cases. Sometimes these break-ins are the result of teenagers pulling on car-door handles and then searching the interior of every car they encounter that isn't secured. Other times it is the work of people — frequently from the east coast of Florida — who come here looking for an easy score. In either event, if your car is locked and nothing valuable is in view, the chances that it will be targeted are slim.
And remember — oftentimes the bad guys are keeping an eye on parking lots. They see you putting your purse or your laptop into the trunk when you go to the beach or the park or the gym. It is best to leave these items at home. The second-best option is to put them into your trunk before you leave home.
With the holiday shopping season here, it's even more important to lock vehicles and keep valuables out of sight.
This season our deputies will patrol shopping centers on foot, in cars and on horseback. They'll also use the agency's Skywatch Sentinel observation tower to help keep a close eye on various shopping center parking lots.
The Sheriff's Office would like to remind the community to follow these holiday shopping tips:
Shop during daylight hours when possible. If shopping at night, take a friend or family member and park in a well-lit area.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible. They are prime targets in crowded areas. Keep cash in your front pocket.
Avoid carrying large amounts of money.
Be alert to your surroundings.
Locate your keys and have them in your hand before you arrive at your car.