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Recent thefts from vehicles have police warning drivers to keep valuables out of sight

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, at 8:49 p.m.

A rash of smash-and-grab thefts this week centered around Sedgwick County Park have authorities warning residents to keep valuables left in vehicles out of sight.

Since Saturday, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has responded to at least four reports of thieves breaking vehicle windows and snatching purses from inside. The majority were reported along 13th Street, either in Sedgwick County Park or at the Westurban Baseball complex at 6900 W. 13th St. North. In at least two cases, a stolen credit card was used within minutes of the theft at a nearby store.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. David Mattingly said Wednesday that the agency has received four other similar theft reports in the area over the past 30 days. The crimes are occurring throughout the day, he said, especially “whenever there’s a sporting event.”

Losses in the most recent break-ins range from $80 to $2,215, with vehicle damage estimated at $150 to $500. Mattingly said authorities think they know who is committing the thefts and that the likely motive is to obtain credit cards, personal or financial documents, Social Security cards or driver’s licenses “so they can go commit further financial crimes.”

He declined to name a suspect or suspects on Wednesday but said that the sheriff’s office plans to increase patrols in response to the thefts.

“People should be able to expect to go to a park,” Mattingly said, “and not have people steal their property.”

Information about whether city-run parks or other areas of Wichita were experiencing similar vehicle break-ins was not readily available Wednesday afternoon, according to Wichita Police Department spokesman Lt. Doug Nolte. He, however, suggested people take a preventive approach to avoid becoming a victim of such thefts by removing valuables from vehicles, locking cars and parking in well-lit areas.

“It just takes a few seconds to bust out the glass and go,” Nolte said.

Mattingly offered similar advice.

“Don’t leave purses or other personal property in plain sight,” he said. “If they can see it, that’s an opportunity there.”

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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