A rash of vehicle burglaries, vehicle thefts, vehicle vandalism and tampering, and grand theft auto have been reported in the City of Fountain Valley in recent weeks, confounding local law enforcement and costing local citizens thousands of dollars in personal losses and property damage.
Over a 21-day period, from July 24 through Aug. 13, the Fountain Valley Police Department received 27 such reports throughout the city, 20 of which were classified as vehicle burglaries, according to the department’s Incident Report Log. And at least another 10 have occurred since then, according to calls reported on the log.
Of those 27 detailed reports, property damage—mostly from smashed car windows—was estimated at $5,900. However, the personal loss to victims has been valued at a whopping $22,070.
In one report, made on Aug. 2, the owner of a white 2012 Mercedes CLS550 four-door vehicle had his rear passenger-side window smashed at a cost of $600, while estimated value of the items stolen from the vehicle was $8,100.
The vehicle was locked and parked overnight on Slater Ave., just down the street from the Fountain Valley Police Department.
Detective Sergeant Matt Sheppard of the FVPD said crimes involving vehicles are prevalent from month to month and especially difficult to solve because you have to catch the individual(s) in the act. He admitted that it has been frustrating.
“We don’t have leads working right now. We think there are multiple crews out there doing it, but right now we don’t have a lot to go on. It’s a tough one,” Sheppard said.
“Lots of these guys are wearing Latex gloves. They just smash the window and reach in and get anything they can. There is absolutely no trace of them or evidence we can follow up on. Even if there was some video surveillance of a crime in progress, it’s pretty hard to put a name to a face without anything to help you out.”
Each year, there are an estimated 1.85 million vehicle thefts reported in the U.S. and $1.26 billion in personal items and accessories stolen from vehicles, according to statistics compiled by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. For every theft, experts estimate there are several break-ins and attempted break-ins.
The vehicle burglaries in Fountain Valley have occurred in random parts of the city during various parts of the day. While most of the vehicle reports were taken between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. or 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., at least 10 vehicle burglaries occurred in the middle of the afternoon, highlighting the brazen attempt by crooks who are committing these crimes.
In once such incident on July 27, a man parked and locked his car on Warner Ave. to play a round of golf. At 1:45 p.m., he was notified by a staff member that his vehicle and been broken into. Damage to the smashed rear passenger window was about $300, but the value of his personal loss was estimated at $5,500.
“One of the best things to do is not leave anything in your car,” Sheppard said. “When the crooks see something they want, they break into the car and retrieve it. For instance, if someone leaves a purse in the car or a GPS unit on the dashboard or between two front seats, you have a crime of opportunity. Break a window, reach in, grab it and run.”
Furthermore, every incident report taken by the FVPD seems to end the same way: “Unknown suspect(s) fled the scene undetected” or “fled in an unknown direction” or “no witnesses were reported.”
Sgt. Sheppard said the best tool that police have is when you hear or see something not right call 9-1-1 so they can respond to the scene immediately.
“A lot of times we investigate these calls and people will say, ‘I heard something last night’ or ‘I saw this strange guy walking through the neighborhood about 11 o’clock’ but they don’t call. We need the public’s help to report any suspicious activity so we have the opportunity to talk to these people. We might even catch (the suspect) when they do it.”
Here are 10 vehicle break-in prevention tips:
- Keep your car visible and park in well-lit areas.
- Don’t make it easy by closing your windows and locking your doors.
- Activate your vehicle’s alarm to discourage thieves.
- Keep your stuff either with you or in a locked trunk.
- Hide your valuables with a cover in exposed areas.
- Don’t hand a thief your keys by hiding them somewhere in the car.
- Stow your stuff before arriving in case you’re being watched.
- Stash the evidence like power plugs and suction cup mounts.
- Trust your instincts and if you’re suspicious find another spot to park.
- Make it tougher on the would-be thief by using anti-theft devices.