This sign at a forest preserve in Lake County urges residents to hide their belongings, lock their cars and take their keys to decrease the risk of car burglaries and theft. | Photo: Lake County Forest Preserves

Numerous police departments in Lake County are warning residents of an increase in car burglaries and thefts and are encouraging residents to practice the “9 PM Routine.”

Authorities say car burglaries and thefts increase as the weather warms up, and they are offering tips to combat such crimes.

The Lake County Forest Preserves said parking lots, including those in the forest preserves, are common locations for vehicle break-ins.

“Every vehicle that has been burglarized had a valuable item left inside,” the forest preserves said.

“Ranger police are strongly urging preserve visitors to lock car doors, close windows, and keep personal property out of plain view, take it with you, or leave it at home.”

Authorities say thieves can break a car window, unlock the door and steal items inside in less than a minute.

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“Often there are no witnesses to these offenses because of the ease and speed,” the forest preserves said.

Some police departments, like the Antioch Police Department, are relaunching their initiative to promote the “9 PM Routine” on social media.

Originating in Pasco County, Florida, in 2017, the 9 PM Routine is a daily reminder for residents to remove valuables from their vehicles, make sure all doors and windows of their vehicles and homes are shut and locked, and turn on exterior lights.

Antioch Police Chief Geoff Guttschow said the most recent burglaries occurred from the end of March through the beginning of April in several different neighborhoods in the village.

Guttschow said his department sees a drop in “crimes of opportunity” every time they push the 9 PM Routine, and they will continue to promote the #9PMRoutine hashtag on social media.

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Residents should consider installing motion-detector floodlights and surveillance cameras to deter would-be thieves.

Those with surveillance video that captures suspicious activity should contact their local police department.

“While it can happen any time of day, it is very common for thieves to strike during the overnight hours,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said.

“They often will go driveway to driveway, pulling on door handles. If a door is left unlocked, they quickly rifle through the victim’s belongings and take anything of value. Sometimes they will open the garage door and look for valuables in the garage or inside the home, if left unlocked. Sometimes, if the key fob or keys are left inside the vehicle, they’ll take that too,” Covelli said.

Police are always keeping an eye out for thieves during patrol, Covelli said, but residents can reduce their risk of being a victim by reporting suspicious activity immediately.

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Authorities also recommend residents park their cars inside garages. If parking outside, residents should choose a well-lit area that is visible to other people.

Residents can download and print this theft prevention tips card created by the Lake County Forest Preserves Ranger Police to stay reminded of crime prevention tips.