State and local police in the Westminster area received more than a dozen complaints last week about break-ins and thefts from vehicles parked overnight in residential driveways.
Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, state police received complaints of 14 break-ins and thefts from vehicles parked in driveways along Bachmans Valley Drive, Lemmon Road and Scott Drive, all off Old Bachmans Valley Road, less than two miles east of the Westminster airport.
In addition, a resident on Baronets Court called Wednesday at 6: 20 a.m. to report a loss of property valued at $125. A resident of Stacey Lee Drive had reported Monday that $100 worth of items had been stolen.
The combined losses were estimated at more than $750, according to state police.
"Lock your vehicles and place valuable items out of sight," said Capt. Dean Brewer, a spokesman for Westminster police.
That message often goes unheeded. Residents awake and head to work only to find that cellular phones, laptop computers and other electronic devices left overnight on the seats of their cars have been stolen, said Brewer and Tfc. Bill Corun at the Westminster barracks.
Tools left in pickup trucks are another popular target for thieves looking to make a quick dollar.
"Sometimes we are our own worst enemies," Brewer said. "We don't bother to lock a car door, or we leave items in plain view rather than place it in the trunk where it's out of sight."
Whether a door is locked or not, valuable items on a car seat are tempting, he said.
"It's still a theft, whether a window is smashed or a door is simply opened," Brewer said. "We broke up a rather large ring of young people last year, and we found they often would bypass a locked vehicle, if one next door was unlocked and offered easier access."
By the time the break-ins are discovered, suspects are long gone and such crimes can be difficult to solve without help from witnesses.
Vehicle break-ins increase each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when people are out shopping, Brewer noted.
"You can't repeat the message often enough: Lock your vehicles and place valuable items out of sight," he said.