The shopping season is officially underway and the Austin Police Department says while you’re out looking for the best deals, some people are looking to steal your car.
FOX 7 spent a part of Black Friday out with Austin police officer Joshua Vishi as he played the role of criminal.
“This is something officers are going to be doing. We are looking at cars like a bad guy would and we leave you a little bit of information about whether your vehicle passed or failed,” Vishi says.
Officer Vishi and APD are doing their part to help prevent innocent shoppers from becoming frustrated victims by issuing report cards on how well vehicles are secured.
There are no penalties with the report cards, just a friendly warning.
“It’s just basically letting you know that your vehicle, you’re doing great. There nothing in plain view or there are a few things you could work on,” Vishi says.
APD is beefing up its presence and visibility at shopping centers to help fight the growing number of holiday thefts.
Vishi says, “Historically, and not just Austin, but nationally we always see a pretty significant spike in property crime during the holidays.”
In 2014, APD had more than 10,000 vehicle burglary cases. Many of them could’ve been prevent, Vishi says, if a few rules were followed.
Simple tips include making sure your vehicle is locked, removing valuables from the vehicle and have something like a blanket to cover up shopping bags so at least if you have something in the car it’s not in plain sight.
Vishi says that after buying your largest and most expensive items you should take them home immediately because it doesn’t take long for the time for the item you paid thousands for to leave with someone else for free.
“They know that you are going to be gone 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, so they have a lot more time to pick their spots and find a time where they are going to be able to get into that car and not be observed, get what they want and get out," Vishi says.
The main tips APD wants you to remember to avoid becoming a victim:
- Prioritize your shopping. Save your most expensive purchase until the very end so that it’s not sitting unprotected in your car.
- Don’t leave valuables or even anything perceived as valuable in plain view. APD says this is the most common mistake people make. Put items such as cell phones, head phones, tablets and wallets in the glove box or trunk.
- Lock your car and take your keys.
- Always park in a well lit and observable area.
- Have the keys to your vehicle in hand before walking out of the store.
- Stay alert and avoid texing or talking your phone while walking to and from your vehicle.