'Tickets' remind drivers not to leave valuables behind

Tampa police showed off an initiative to combat car break-ins in several city neighborhoods.  The “Tickets of Education” effort involves the department’s Crime Prevention Team and targets areas within city limits.

Officers walked a MacDill Avenue apartment complex Wednesday morning, peering through car windows.  Notices, described by the department as “friendly,” were left on the windshields of vehicles inspected for visible items.

“Basically what we are trying to do is educate the citizens and the residents in the area,” said Lt. Kim Plourde-Torres.  "Let them know that we’re taking it one step further to where we are actually looking into their vehicles and seeing whether or not they’re showing anything of value, leaving anything in plain view.”

According to Lt. Plourde-Torres, officers do not open car doors.   They look through car windows and check a box on a former either congratulating drivers when “no valuables observed” or alerting others when valuables spotted.

The team looks for items she says “a thief would want.”  Police tell FOX 13 visible items spotted Wednesday included a Coach purse, Michael Kors wallet, cash, three GPS devices, iPods, and an iPad.

“Purses, wallets, laptops, brief cases, cameras," Plourde-Torres said of items found since the initiative launched.  "One of the scarier things is people will leave their firearms in the vehicle and those will get stolen. One of the biggest things is the new keyless entry vehicles with the push start. People leave the key fob inside the vehicle. You have to remember to take that back in the house with you or [thieves] will have a valet key and they’ll steal your car.”

Tampa police investigated six unlocked car break-ins the first week of October. Authorities say thieves targeted vehicles in South Tampa and stole credit cards, purses, and electronics. 

In January, officers responded to 20 car break-ins and nine stolen vehicle reports in the first 22 days of the year.

These types of crimes are not only happening in Tampa, but throughout the Bay area including Pinellas and Pasco counties.

“We’ve been having a big uptick when it comes to auto burglaries and thefts out of vehicles,” Plourde-Torres continued. “We are trying to brainstorm different ways to make the message known and get a response back from the residents: We’re here for you. We are trying to help the situation but we ask that you help also. We can’t do it all.”

She reminds residents crime can happen anywhere.

“A lot of times whenever people are in comfortable neighborhoods and they don’t have to worry about their neighbors, it’s not them that’s the concern,” said the lieutenant. “It’s the folks that come from other areas. You may be comfortable in your residence or neighborhood. That doesn’t mean someone else won’t come in and try to take from you.”