Authorities in Wichita are trying to prevent holiday thefts by warning shoppers to “hide your items,” “take your keys” and “lock your vehicles.”
Through Dec. 29, the messages will appear on portable flashing traffic signs placed at busy area shopping centers around the city by the Wichita police and the city’s Public Works Department.
Shoppers are already seeing the warnings signs stationed around the parking lot of Towne East Square, off of Kellogg and Rock Road. The campaign kicked off on Black Friday.
The idea, Wichita police Capt. Scott Heimerman said, is to deter criminals by cutting off the source of their crimes: valuables visible through car windows.
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“This is a busy time of year for thieves, and by giving shoppers a heads-up, we hope to prevent auto thefts and vehicular break-ins in high-volume shopping areas,” Heimerman, who heads the department’s property crimes bureau, said in a news release.
The signs will flash their messages 24 hours a day.
“Reducing crime is everyone’s business,” he said.
In recent years, Wichita police have offered tips to shoppers to keep their newly bought holiday gifts and other valuables that must be left in vehicles out of the hands of thieves. Those tips include:
▪ Lock purses and wallets in the trunk, even if you don’t carry cash. Thieves steal identities, too, and a wallet left on a car seat is a prime target.
▪ Don’t leave personal electronics, such as phones and MP3 players, in plain sight.
▪ Use the trunk, rather than duffel bags, to store purchases. Thieves looking for “a big score” will grab the easy-to-carry bags from vehicles, even though items tucked inside are hidden from sight.
▪ Carry a blanket to hide purchases if you have to leave them in your car in plain sight.
▪ Park in well-lighted areas when shopping at night.
▪ Thieves usually blend in with shoppers. So if someone hanging around a parking lot looks suspicious, call 911.