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Smaller Crimes Have a Big Impact on Iowans

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa What would you do without your ID, your debit card, your credit card or your cell phone?

They're things we take for granted, but police say every single day thieves are smashing car windows, stealing items and leaving people empty-handed.

"I felt violated that somebody was in my car, rummaging through my things," said Addie Martinez.

According to Cedar Rapids Police, thieves have broken into nearly 200 cars since the beginning of November.

"I just started crying, and I just couldn't believe that it happened to me because you never think that stuff will happen to you and it did," Martinez added.

A typical day at work in Cedar Rapids turned into a nightmare for Addie Martinez this past December.

"They broke into the driver side window with something, there was no rock or anything to show what they broke into my car with," Martinez said.

A stranger took her belongings in just a few minutes.

"My purse was stolen, like I said, my makeup bag, but in my purse was my passport, credit cards, checks, all that stuff that you just can't be without," Martinez said.

Stories like Addie's are common for Cedar Rapids Police. They investigate dozens every month, simply too many to handle.

"We don't have enough time to work with every single case the way we'd like to," said Investigator Craig VonSprecken.

Officers still work countless hours to put an end to the crime that's creating more victims every day. Investigators said the case often starts off slowly.

"He (the officer) can tell by taking his flash light and looking at the items to see if there is any type of foreign substance on there that can be a fingerprint," said CRPD Crime Scene Investigator John McDaniel.

Investigators, however, can track spending if the thief uses the credit card, fingerprint stolen items that surface and look through surveillance video.

"We'd like to be able to identify people, specific things about people, so they know who they are," VonSprecken said.

It's a time-consuming process for a team of investigators. With the number of these crimes stacking up, police find themselves in an unfortunate but realistic situation.

"There's not enough people; there's a lot of cases, not enough people," VonSprecken said.

Investigators said you can help.

"If there's anything we can trace, such as checks or credit cards, then we start investigating those," VonSprecken said.

Addie learned that first hand.

"There was nothing they could do at that time until I found out that my credit card was used and then I was able to go to the bank and get that stopped, call the police back and open back up the investigation to find the person that did it," Martinez said.

Now, Addie's waiting to see the woman police say smashed her window, have her day in court. She hopes her story helps prevent all of this from happening to someone else.

"I really have to make an effort to bring my purse, bring my work bag, bring everything in with me where ever I go and not leave it in the car," Martinez said.

According to police, Heather Bennett, 34, of Cedar Rapids is accused of using Addie's credit card. Bennett also faces more than 20 charges connected to multiple car break-ins.

Police said, if you do have to leave something in your car, put your belongings in the trunk before leaving home. The same goes for getting your shopping bags out of view before moving on to the next store. That way thieves who might be watching a parking lot won't see where you're stashing your belongings. Investigators also noted the importance of locking your doors and parking in well-lit areas.

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