COVINGTON -- It is commonplace for law enforcement agencies to remind shoppers this time of year to keep vehicle doors locked and packages out of sight while parked in mall and shopping center parking lots. The Newton County Sheriff's Office is also reminding residents to follow those same precautions while their cars are parked at home.
NCSO spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell said the Sheriff's Office isn't seeing an increase in entering auto crimes, but the rate remains pretty steady.
Mitchell said the first precaution to avoid being an entering auto victim is to simply lock your car doors.
"We're finding a lot of these cars are unlocked, probably 95 percent of them are unlocked," Mitchell said. "A lot of times these (offenders) are opportunists, and what we would like to get out to the community is lock your doors, make it harder (for them)."
Such was the case for an Avalon Road resident who found his Explorer had been entered while parked in his carport on Dec. 21. The complainant told the NCSO that his vehicle had been left unlocked. The complainant's wife's purse and his cell phone were taken from the SUV.
Mitchell said residents may not realize that suspects are coming into neighborhoods at night with crime on their minds.
"A lot of the individuals are on foot and will get dropped off and will go into neighborhoods carrying bags," Mitchell said.
If they come across an unlocked car, they can steal what's inside without drawing too much attention to themselves, Mitchell added.
In addition to locking car doors, Mitchell said residents should remove items from their cars when they arrive home.
"A lot of these crimes are happening overnight," Mitchell said. "We are extra patrolling and have specialized units out in these areas. What we want is for the community to make it harder for these opportunists to break into these cars and to take their belongings."
Mitchell said residents should also make sure that outdoor security lights are working and to heed anything unusual outside. "If you hear your dog barking, go and check on it," Mitchell said. "Don't just ignore it."
Mitchell urged residents to call on the NCSO for assistance to help fight car break-ins.
"If you see anything suspicious, call the Sheriff's Office, and definitely make a report," he said.
The NCSO can be reached at 678-625-1400. Tips can be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through the department's Web site at www.newtonsheriffga.org and clicking on "anonymous tips." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.