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The Fitchburg Police Department has recently noted an increase in reports of stolen automobiles, as well as an increase in the number of cars listed as stolen in other jurisdictions and recovered in the City of Fitchburg. Automobile theft is almost always a crime of opportunity and is one of the most preventable crimes we investigate.
The overwhelming majority of the recent cases we have investigated involve vehicle owners who have either left the vehicle unlocked and running or, more commonly, have left a key in their unlocked car. Recently, many reports of stolen cars often come with nearby reports of thefts of various items from other unlocked cars. In many of these instances it appears the suspect(s) are looking for open cars and then looking through the car for items such as loose change, electronics, credit cards, garage door openers and car keys. Other reports have shown suspects have searched for open garage doors in order to find cars with keys inside and other property.
We understand in all of our busy lives sometimes even simple steps can be overlooked or forgotten about. However, we cannot emphasize enough these crimes are almost always preventable. Simple measures can save you from the loss of your property and your automobile. Below you will find the most effective steps to prevent your car from being stolen as well as some additional tips should you become the victim of an automobile theft.
1. Lock your car and then lock it again. Visually and physically ensure all of your doors are locked.
2. Check your car to ensure no spare or valet keys or fobs are left inside. Never store keys or fobs in your car.
3. Never leave your car running to warm it up or even for a few seconds to run inside. Use your remote start system or consider having an after-market remote start installed.
4. If possible, park in your garage or a secure parking area. If you park outside, park in a well-lit spot.
5. Do not keep anything of value in your car. This includes loose change, cigarettes, electronics and anything else of value. If you park your car outside, do not leave your garage door opener in your vehicle.
We strongly encourage you to make these crime prevention steps a habit. Make locking your doors, both on your car and at your residence, a nightly routine.
As always, we encourage you to report suspicious activity to us as soon as possible. We also ask you report all thefts or any other criminal activity as soon as possible.
Assess the areas you park your car. The best place to park your car is in your garage with a closed garage door or in another secured area (underground parking). The next best place to park your car is in a well-lit and well-traveled area.
If you live in an apartment complex, condominium or other arrangement with shared facilities, remember everyone is responsible for security. Report broken or malfunctioning locks, lights and doors. Don’t let people you don’t recognize into secured areas. Report suspicious activity to the us and to your management. Do not rely on management to call us immediately.
If you are homeowner, remember everyone who lives with you is responsible for your home's security. Double check your doors are locked. Keep your garage door closed at all times unless you are in your garage, coming home or leaving home. Keep the door from your garage to your home locked at all times.
Many recent automobile thefts have occurred in parking areas for multi-unit complexes and dense neighborhoods. Suspects will generally take the path of least resistance and look for the easiest targets, usually in areas with multiple targets. In other instances suspects may search residential neighborhoods for homes with open garage doors or unlocked doors. Simple crime prevention measures will usually force suspects to look for another target.
Remove all paperwork that includes your address from your car, including vehicle registration and receipts. You are required to have proof of insurance but most insurance cards do not contain your home address. You can also use an electronic copy of your insurance to satisfy the requirement. NEVER keep your title in your vehicle.
A car thief could locate spare keys or a garage door opener and in combination with your address found on paperwork, could gain access to your residence. A title in a vehicle could allow a car thief to forge a sale and ownership of your vehicle.
Record your license plate and keep your vehicle details including the VIN in a secure place you can quickly access. We recommend keeping your registration and a copy of your insurance together someplace safe. It’s also beneficial, especially if your car has unique characteristics, to save some pictures of your vehicle.
If your car is stolen and you know your license plate, we can immediately begin looking for it and enter it into a national database. By keeping a copy of your insurance card handy you can also immediately contact your company to file a claim.
Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s anti-theft systems and any other additional options such as GPS enabled electronic assistance available through your vehicle manufacturer or satellite radio company. Some newer models also have a smartphone app that allows you to lock/unlock your car and also track its location.
Some cars have anti-theft features built-in. Learning how to properly use them and what their limitations are can help prevent theft. If your vehicle has any type of GPS tracking, we may be able to work with the provider to use it to locate your vehicle. In the event your car is stolen please let the responding officer know your vehicle has GPS tracking capability.
Talk to your neighbors. If you've been waiting to meet your neighbors, now is a great time. Share these crime prevention tips with them.
Neighbors who are familiar with the people and patterns of their neighborhood are some of our best partners in preventing and solving crime. Additionally, a neighbor who does not practice sound crime prevention techniques may be unknowingly making themselves and other neighbors a target. If thieves notice garage doors are routinely left open and the neighborhood is typically dark, they might also capitalize on homeowners who forget to close their doors just one time.
As a reminder you can always log on to www.communitycrimemap.com and enter your address to view police calls for service in your neighborhood. The site allows users to view all or only selected types of police calls for service. Users can specify a date range and a radius from their home address. You can also elect to receive emailed reports of police calls for service in your specified area. This site is free and allows citizens to see what is occurring in their neighborhoods and surrounding areas.
The Police Department maintains several outlets to share information with the community:
-Citizen Watch and BizWatch E-Mail Lists: Sign-up to receive periodic emails with updates related to crimes and crime prevention. Citizen Watch emails are geared toward residents of the city, while BizWatch emails will focus on information specific to our business community.
You can reach us 24 hours a day at our non-emergency dispatch number, (608)270-4300. Calling this number will connect you directly to a City of Fitchburg Police Dispatcher. We encourage you to call us anytime you observe suspicious activity or if you would like to speak with an officer or supervisor.
We do not have self-report system for filing police reports for issues like theft or damage to property. We do however offer the ability to share information/concerns that are not in progress with us via the city's website: http://www.fitchburgwi.gov/requesttracker.aspx. In the event you would like to file a police report, have an immediate concern or would to speak with an officer, call our non-emergency dispatch number, (608)270-4300.