CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - For all of the gadgets and options available on cars in recent years, Cedar Rapids police are asking people to simply use the standard door locks to cut down on thefts.
"You've got locks on a car," said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. "Use them."
In 2012, 950 formal reports of thefts from vehicles came into Cedar Rapids police. Naturally, warmer months lead to more of what Hamblin calls these "crimes of opportunity." In the summer months, June had 96 reports, July had 118 and August had 122. Overall, last year's reports was more than a 5 percent uptick from the 2011.
This does not mean Cedar Rapids is becoming an epicenter of auto-related crime but serves as a firm reminder for people to take more precautions to keep thieves away, especially in a populated area.
"Cedar Rapids has the mall or the workout facilities or at a parking ramp where you know you're going to have vehicles there," said Hamblin.
Hamblin said purses are often the most stolen item and expensive but compact electronics such as iPods, iPads or other mobile devices are also targeted.
Whether this slight uptick in auto crime is also related to violent crime may be too incomplete to form a definitive link. While some may steal purses or mobile devices, violence such as carjackings are not prevalent in Cedar Rapids. An incident in mid-December, when police said two men demanded the keys of a 21-year-old woman's Pontiac Sunfire and assaulted her, is still uncommon in the area.
Breaking into a car or truck usually requires nothing more than finding an unlocked vehicle or a swift swing of a hammer. To counter those low-tech methods, the industry of protecting automobiles is tapping technology to make sure people lock their cars.
Nathan Flatgard, owner of Automotive Electronics & Accessories in Cedar Rapids, said car alarms are a "fairly small portion of our business" but with cell phones nearly everywhere, people can use a phone to lock their trucks from nearly anywhere that can pick up a signal.