Holiday shopping errors mean prime pickings for thieves

WICHITA — None of the vehicles in the Towne East parking lot this morning had flashing lights proclaiming "Come and get it!" to thieves.

But some of them might as well have.

Police officers and officials spent part of the morning checking vehicles to demonstrate how easily shoppers can become crime victims during the holiday season through indifference or lack of awareness.

More than a half-dozen cars checked within a matter of minutes were unlocked. One of them had a loan application — a gold mine for identity thieves — sitting on the front passenger seat.

"How long would it take to steal that? About this long," Lt. Clark Wiemeyer said, opening and closing the door.

Too many folks simply think nothing will happen to their car or belongings, officers said.

"Everyone is just in a hurry, is what it comes down to," Officer Mike Lloyd said. "They think, 'Oh, I'll only be inside for a minute.' But it's never only a minute."

Capt. Darrell Atteberry spotted a military ID left in plain view in a red sedan. After repeatedly finding unlocked cars, he simply shook his head.

One woman left her purse sitting atop a stack of folding chairs in the back of a maroon Chevy Suburban. A brand new boom box — a coveted target for thieves hungry for items they can resell — was left in plain view in the back seat of a white Town and Country.

Lloyd said he spotted three forms of ID left inside easy-to-get-into vehicles within a matter of a few minutes.

"That's a good day's work for an identity thief right there," he said.

The holidays are prime pickings for thieves, police say, because more people are out shopping and they tend to leave purchases and other valuables inside vehicles while going back for more.

Hurried and harried, holiday shoppers tend to be more careless. But it doesn't have to be that way, authorities say.

Locking packages and other valuables in the trunk only takes a minute or two. Wallets, checkbooks and purses all need to be locked away or carried inside.

For more on this story, see Wednesday's Eagle.