Police warn shoppers: Don't make it easy for holiday burglars

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The holiday shopping season is a busy time for burglars. Cedar Rapids Police want shoppers to watch out, whether it’s keeping gifts in a vehicle out of sight or keeping porch thieves from swiping online shipments left at a home.

Police say if you leave a vehicle unlocked and something valuable inside it could disappear any time of year. But burglars know more vehicles in parking lots will have more things worth stealing inside around the holidays.

In the last five years, burglaries have averaged about 80 cases in Cedar Rapids in both November and December. That’s the highest monthly totals of the year.

CRPD crime prevention specialist Shannon Sampson says you can look around any parking lot and see potential problems.

For instance, a purse left in plain sight on a seat. Another frequent risk is packages not stowed safely in a locked trunk or left uncovered.

Sampson says anything visible might tempt a burglar. But an unlocked vehicle is the greatest temptation of all.

“A car where the doors are locked, they’re probably not going to take the time to break in the window just because they know that will draw attention to themselves and people could see them,” the officer said.

Police also encourage people at this holiday time of year to not carry large amounts of cash or extra credit cards. And don’t leave a vehicle running or with keys in the ignition even if it’s just a quick stop inside.

Sampson says another growing problem is thieves, often called “porch pirates,” who steal online purchases delivered to homes.

In September and October of this year, Cedar Rapids Police had five such reports each month.

Sampson says some homeowners are installing doorbell cameras that can show video and record anyone approaching the front door. Owners can get alerts on phones and even answer the doorbell through their phone.

For those who don’t want to spend that kind of money, another option may be to have deliveries sent to workplaces, if it’s allowed, or track packages and make sure someone is available to pick it up as soon as it’s delivered.

Police say if you leave a vehicle unlocked and something valuable inside it could disappear any time of year. But burglars know more vehicles in parking lots will have more things worth stealing inside around the holidays.

In the last five years, burglaries have averaged about 80 cases in Cedar Rapids in both November and December. That’s the highest monthly totals of the year.

CRPD crime prevention specialist Shannon Sampson says you can look around any parking lot and see potential problems.

For instance, a purse left in plain sight on a seat. Another frequent risk is packages not stowed safely in a locked trunk or left uncovered.

Sampson says anything visible might tempt a burglar. But an unlocked vehicle is the greatest temptation of all.

“A car where the doors are locked, they’re probably not going to take the time to break in the window just because they know that will draw attention to themselves and people could see them,” the officer said.

Police also encourage people at this holiday time of year to not carry large amounts of cash or extra credit cards. And don’t leave a vehicle running or with keys in the ignition even if it’s just a quick stop inside.

Sampson says another growing problem is thieves, often called “porch pirates,” who steal online purchases delivered to homes.

In September and October of this year, Cedar Rapids Police had five such reports each month.

Sampson says some homeowners are installing doorbell cameras that can show video and record anyone approaching the front door. Owners can get alerts on phones and even answer the doorbell through their phone.

For those who don’t want to spend that kind of money, another option may be to have deliveries sent to workplaces, if it’s allowed, or track packages and make sure someone is available to pick it up as soon as it’s delivered.

Interested in stopping the porch pirates? The Hiawatha Police Department is hoping to stop the pirates by using a bait package on porches again this year. If you have a porch you're willing to let authorities use, contact the Hiawatha's Police Captain Ben Camm at 319-393-1212.