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Just lock those car doors [Editorial]

Easy pickings!
Easy pickings! (Nils Johnson for The Aegis / Baltimore)

It's often been said that criminals aren't the smartest people. The same, so it seems, can be said about potential victims of crimes.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office has a simple crime prevention tip – locking your vehicles will keep many criminals out – that it's been trying to get people to heed.

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"We take reports on a regular basis of things being stolen from vehicles – purses, laptops, gift cards, loose change. The majority are unlocked, and the items are in plain view," Cristie Kahler, director of media relations for the Sheriff's Office, said.

It seems so simple: Lock your vehicle and keep your stuff.

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Getting people to follow that advice has been harder than the Sheriff's Office expected and a whole lot harder than it should be.

"We've tried to explore every avenue to explain this crime is occurring," Kahler said.

These are crimes of opportunity, according to the Sheriff's Office, many committed by people trying to support their heroin addiction.

Kahler said the crimes have three things in common: the vehicle was unlocked, the stolen items were in plain view and they were easily convertible to cash or illegal drugs.

"We're pretty sure someone was going around looking at unlocked doors," Kahler said. "No windows were broken."

When all else failed in getting the message out, according to Maj. Jack Simpson, of the Sheriff's Office, the agency sent deputies into neighborhoods and door to door.

In a few blocks in Edgewood last month, there were 13 thefts from vehicles in a 30-hour period. When the Sheriff's Office did spot checks, they found 61 unlocked vehicles.

"We are taking a proactive approach toward crime in the community," Simpson said. "Many crimes can be prevented through community education and outreach."

This is a crime that's easily preventable by simply making sure people lock their vehicles. Here's adding our voice to the Sheriff's Office: Lock the doors on your vehicles and put your belongings out of sight. It's simple and effective.

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