Auto Burglary is a Crime of Opportunity

Automobile Burglary Prevention Tips

- WMPD Detective Bureau

In recent months, citizens of Wilton Manors have seen a spike in car burglaries. Video surveillance systems have recorded the offenders in action. The recordings revealed that the culprits walked from car to car checking to see if the doors were locked. In each instance, if the car doors were locked, they simply moved onto the next car. They did not break the windows as doing so would have drawn attention to them. When an unlocked automobile was discovered, the criminal searched through the car and stole what they could. He or she then proceeded to the next vehicle in search of more unlocked doors and more items to steal.

These burglaries only take a matter of seconds. What we need to do is to make their job more difficult by slowing them down. There are several steps that you can take to make your vehicle less of a target for thieves:
  1. LOCK YOUR CAR DOORS!! Experience has taught us that over 80% of our car burglaries were done on unlocked cars. This is the simplest and most effective way to enhance the prevention process.
  2. Keep your vehicle free from debris and limit what is kept inside of it. Do not leave purses, wallets, G.P.S., MP3 players or iPods, computers, tablets, book-bags, sunglasses, money, or ANYTHING of value, inside your car. If there is nothing of value in plain view, the thief will move onto the next target.
  3. Often, the thief does surveillance by watching you exit the car. Does a female bring her purse with her? Does a male place a laptop in the trunk before walking away? Both these actions send a message to the thief who is watching. The female has her purse, so find another target. The male has left a laptop in the trunk; “I have found a target.” It is always safer to bring the item of value with you.
  4. Try to park your automobile in a well-lit and populated area. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of people loitering in the area.
If you do observe people in the area loitering, lifting door handles, or looking into car windows, immediately report those persons to the police by calling 911. Report that you believe there is a burglary in progress and the actions you see to support this belief. Recognize that many criminal cases have been solved because citizens have taken the initiative to call 911 to report the in-progress crime. Calling the police can make a difference!

If it doesn't look right, it probably isn't. If you see suspicious people or unusual occurrences, call the police right away. You have the option to meet with an officer or you can choose to remain anonymous if that makes you feel more comfortable.


Most thefts occur when valuables are left unattended. The thief normally seeks privacy to commit his/her act. Virtually any article left in plain view is apt to be stolen. Most property that is stolen is left unattended or unlocked.

Who provides the burglar with the opportunity? The victim provides the burglar with the opportunity by leaving their vehicle unlocked or their window open. Most property stolen is left in plain view where anyone walking by the car can see it lying there.

What are their favorite targets? Anything of value. The property most preferred is cash or loose change that is left in the console or ashtray of the vehicle. They also take wallets, purses, cellular phones, smart phones, tablets, laptops, sunglasses, and briefcases.

When do auto burglaries occur?
Most auto burglaries occur at night while the vehicle is parked outside the victim's residence. Some burglars also target vehicles that are parked in parking lots while their owners are at work, in class, or shopping. They know it's going to be a long time before the owner returns to their car and the likelihood of being caught is low.

What can I do to keep from being the victim of an auto burglary?
Park your car in a garage or parking lot that is supervised by an attendant. Park your car in well-lit areas away from places of concealment, such as alleys and behind bushes. Close your windows and lock your doors. Take your valuables with you when you leave your car or lock them in the trunk out of sight.

What should I do if I find my car has been burglarized?
Report anyone that is seen trying door handles, looking in cars or loitering in the parking lot. If the burglary is in progress, call 911. The call taker will ask you who you are and where you are calling from. Then they will ask you to describe the suspect (race, sex, height, weight and clothing description). If the burglary has already occurred, call our Communications Center’s non-emergency phone number of (954) 764-4357. Do not get inside of the car to see what's missing because you may be destroying evidence needed to catch the burglar.

Auto Burglary Prevention Tips

  • Remove visible items from your vehicle - If you leave items visible in your car, you are a target. Be aware that someone may be watching as you put a wallet, purse, or cell phone under your seat, especially at a gym. Take these with you or secure them in your trunk.
  • Lock Up!
    • Lock your vehicle and take your keys, even for quick errands.
    • Lock the trunk, hatchback or tailgate to block access into the vehicle.
    • Close all windows, including vent or wing windows and sunroofs.

                                     Lock It or Lose It

  • Vehicle alarms - Buy an alarm and use it! Many people believe that alarms no longer make a difference; however, they do remain an effective deterrent to a burglar. Remember criminals are looking for the easy target.
  • Do not attach personal information to your keys - If your keys are stolen, having your personal information or vehicle license number attached only compounds the problem. A criminal now may have access to your home, automobile or office.
  • Mail - Do not leave outgoing or incoming mail in your car, especially where visible. This has your name and address on it.
  • Garage Door Opener - Avoid leaving this in your car if possible.
  • Park Safely!
    • At home, park in your garage if you have one. Lock your car and all garage doors.
    • Park in a well-lit area.
    • Check to see that your vehicle is visible from pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Remember, you have the opportunity to prevent yourself from becoming an auto burglaries victim and you can do so by removing your valuables from your vehicle and locking them in a safe place, and by locking your vehicle. By following these helpful tips you can help the Wilton Manors Police Department protect you and your property.