Unlocked cars produce largest crime pattern in Montgomery Co.

One of the biggest crime trends in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a crime familiar throughout the region and something easily preventable — theft from unlocked cars.

When keys or garage door openers are left inside unlocked cars, the crime can quickly escalate to car thefts and home burglaries, officials warn.

A Montgomery Village virtual town hall on public safety, conducted Monday night, highlighted thefts from unlocked cars as the largest pattern of crime in Montgomery County.

“It’s been going on for a very long time. For the criminals that participate in this type of activity, it’s almost like going to a buffet where they’ll just go to a neighborhood and go down the line of cars and look for the ones that are unlocked and see what’s in there that they can take,” said Capt. Michael Ward, newly-installed commander of the county’s 6th police district.

At one time, thieves may have been satisfied with pilfering some loose change, but apparently car owners are making it much more lucrative for the criminals.

“Please, please, please lock your car, don’t leave anything of value in it, especially don’t leave the keys for one car in the other car, don’t leave the valet key in the car, don’t leave the key fobs in the car and don’t leave your garage door opener in the car,” he said.

Keys left in cars can quickly turn into a car theft. Auto theft is up 21.4% in the county so far this year compared to the same period last year.

Morgan told the public safety meeting, hosted by Council member Craig Rice, that garage door openers left in cars can lead to burglaries.

“The criminal will use the garage door opener to open the garage in the middle of the night and either enter an unlocked door to the house or steal from the garage itself,” Morgan said.

Participants in the public safety town hall were also told that other community concerns include traffic complaints, including car meet-ups, speeding and loud noise.

The community was informed that gang activity, including the transnational gang MS-13 and local gangs, continues to be active in Montgomery County’s 6th police district, which includes Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg city, Airpark, Rio and Kentlands.

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