Police in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Highwood and Deerfield are warning residents that stolen vehicles are up 130% and burglary to vehicles are up 70% in 2020.
Amanda Civitello, Communications Manager for the City of Highland Park, said that the four towns strongly urge residents to take precautions to prevent vehicle burglaries and vehicle thefts following a wave of incidents in these communities.
Instances of theft and burglary to parked vehicles have increased significantly during late summer and early fall, Civitello said.
Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest, and Deerfield have logged 94 instances of stolen vehicles during 2020, a nearly 130% increase over 2019, and 175 instances of theft or burglary to vehicles, an increase of over 70% from 2019.
Civitello said the vast majority of vehicle burglaries and thefts occurred because car doors were left unlocked or keys or key fobs were left in the vehicle.
Proximity to well-traveled highways is also associated with increased vehicular crimes, she added.
“These instances follow a disturbing trend, typically involving criminals visiting communities at night. They look through windows for valuables that may have been left in visible spaces in unlocked cars, especially garage door openers,” Civitello said.
Criminals can then use this access to steal the vehicle or gain entry to the garage, which may lead to residential burglaries.
The stolen vehicles are often used to commit other crimes and have put other motorists at risk when the suspects try to avoid detection or escape apprehension.
Police urge residents to follow simple steps, known as the “9 p.m. routine,” to help prevent vehicle burglaries and thefts.
“Keep all valuables out of sight, especially garage door openers. Lock all doors and close all windows and sunroofs, even if parking in your garage. Ensure garage doors are closed. Never leave keys or key fobs in your car,” officials said.
Drivers are also reminded to remove keys and lock their vehicles while refueling, not to leave vehicles running unattended, and to immediately call for help and report crimes.