Detroit – — Police say people heading downtown to enjoy the array of festivals, music and sporting events this summer can reduce their chances of falling victim to auto theft-related crimes by taking a few precautions.
Such crimes can take place anywhere in Metro Detroit, said Sgt. Vernal Newson, commanding officer of the Detroit Police Department’s Commercial Auto Theft Unit, but the city has historically represented more than half of the auto thefts in the state.
“Detroit is always going to be higher because we have a larger population and the number of drivers who travel to the city,” Newson said.
Newson said auto-related crime in Detroit has decreased 20.5 percent in the downtown area. So far this year, 175 cars were stolen compared to 220 in 2013.
Terri Miller, executive director of Help Eliminate Auto Theft, a statewide prevention program, said the summer months of June, July and August are traditionally in the top five months for vehicles to be stolen.
One major way to avoid being a target of auto theft-related crimes is to put items such as phone cords, laptops, tablets, umbrellas, briefcases — items that would attract thieves — in the trunk.
“Leaving items in plain view is a no-no,” Newson said. “A lot of the vehicles that are not stolen are broken into because people don’t take items off the seats. This is what is driving auto theft-related crime in the downtown Detroit area more so than anywhere in the city.”
Miller said her group often hears of vehicle thefts and break-ins occurring when drivers park in areas away from major venues.
“The further away that you park or the more remote the lot, you increase your chance for being a victim,” Miller said.
Using parking structures or valet parking can also reduce risk, Newson said. Most vehicles that are stolen are parked on main streets, at a parking meter or in unattended areas.
“An auto theft offender seeks an opportunity to take a vehicle that is unwatched and unsecured,” Newson said.
Those concerned about the cost of paying to park or using a valet might consider carpooling or investing in an anti-theft device.
“We (aren’t) trying to scare people from going downtown. It is important to support what is going on downtown but you need to be smart about it,” Miller said.