Now that the weather has warmed, summer is at hand and lawn-mowing season is upon us, police are warning about an all-too-common crime committed just about every day, at least during this time of year, of which people can easily avoid being victim: garage thefts.
"As with every season, there's a type of crime that's prevalent, and this type of crime is something that happens in spring and summer months," said Officer Jason Willingham, spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department.
He explained that a person typically opens his garage door, gets his lawnmower out to mow his front yard, then goes to mow the back yard, leaving the garage open and unattended.
"In the meantime, there are suspects that just drive around the neighborhood, looking for people to steal from," Willingham said.
"That's just an open invitation for a would-be thief to come by and take your belongings--something that you've worked hard, spent a lot of time away from home and your family, to get the funds to buy that piece of equipment, and somebody's taking it in a short 30-second time frame," he also said.
"It doesn't take long for someone to jump out of the car, take what they want, and leave, and nine times out of ten, unless you're fortunate enough to have a neighbor who observes this crime taking place, you won't ever know it happened," Willingham added.
He said homeowners often don't even notice their weed eater or chainsaw or bicycle is missing until several days later, when they decide to use the stolen item, so the trail is usually cold by the time they notify police that they'd been victimized.
Also, most people don't think to write down the serial numbers for the items in their garage, so thieves know they can pawn them, sell them on the street or keep them for personal use, and no one will be able to prove that the item is stolen.
"People have insurance on rings and other high-ticket, valuable items, but you don't think about that $150 weed eater sitting out there in the garage. Most people think, 'Oh, it's going to be fine.' But, that's $150 that homeowner is out," warned Willingham.
Such on-the-fly garage thefts aren't classified any differently than any other types of larceny, so the crimefighter couldn't say how many garage heists happen in any given summer season, but said, "We receive these calls every day. I don't have a direct figure on how much this happens, but I know that the calls come in on a daily basis."
And it doesn't just happen while people are mowing, he said, explaining that it's not uncommon for people to forget to close their garage doors after finishing their yard work.
"As a patrol officer working midnight shifts... you'd be amazed at the people who forget to close their garage doors," Willingham said.
"In order to avoid letting this happen, it's really important for you to shut your garage door and keep your tools away from the public so they can't be stolen," he added.
Garage thefts are the crime-of-the-season in the summer, Willingham said, while car burglaries typically spike during Christmas season and during the fall and spring: thieves break into cars to steal merchandise purchased for gifts, and they tend to burgle cars again when people leave cell phones and purses in their vehicles and in easy view of thieves, when they go to parks or other outdoor recreational attractions.
"Thieves are thieves twelve months a year. A thief, generally, is going to continue to steal until he or she is caught. So, they're always going to be out there, and this is just one of those situations that they'll take advantage of, given the opportunity. It just makes it more imperative for us to protect our belongings and protect our home and not give them an easy target," concluded Willingham.
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