The Washington Post
Rising Thefts From Cars Have Police On the Alert
Cellphones, Money, GPS Devices Stolen
Police in Bethesda are stepping up patrols to tackle a sharp increase in thefts of items from vehicles, police said.
In the past month, police have investigated 162 smash-and-grabs, up from the 74 reported during the same period last year, said Montgomery County Police Capt. Wayne M. Jerman, commander of the Bethesda station.
“During the last two weeks, we’ve seen a tremendous increase,” Jerman said. “An alarming increase, to be honest.”
In about one-third of the cases reported in recent weeks, thieves targeted portable Global Positioning System devices.
“In the majority of the other incidents, it’s cellphones, iPods, cash and laptops,” Jerman said.
None of the other five police districts in the county has seen a comparable increase, police spokeswoman Melanie Hadley said. The district with the second-highest number of reported thefts from vehicles is Rockville, which had 86 during the same period.
Excluding Bethesda, 336 smashand-grabs were reported in the county between May 19 and June 19.
Stealing items from cars is a type of larceny and a misdemeanor in Maryland. Countywide, the number of vehicle-related thefts increased from 538 in 2005 to 645 in 2006, according to crime statistics. Overall crime in Montgomery and the Washington region has increased in recent years.
Jerman said no arrests have been made in the recent Bethesda thefts. The majority of daytime thefts occurred in the central business district; most of those at night were in residential areas.
Jerman said he has informed patrol officers of the trend and has enlisted the help of one of the specialized roving police units that tackle spates of crime countywide.
He said officers have been monitoring pawnshops and other places where the stolen merchandise might wind up, to no avail.
He urged motorists to lock vehicles and keep valuables out of sight. He said some owners of GPS devices have hidden them in their cars but left the suction cup they are generally attached to on the dashboard, defeating the purpose of concealing the gadget.
“If we can get people to be aware and remove the valuables, that would help tremendously,” Jerman said. “Like the stray dog theory. If a stray dog keeps getting fed, they’re going to come back.”
Police encourage anyone with information about the thefts in Bethesda to contact police by calling 301-657-0112.