Despite numerous warnings, New Canaanites aren't locking up
Published 1:20 pm, Wednesday, August 24, 2011
A quick glance at the New Canaan News and Darien News police blotters each week reveals what police departments in both towns have known for a long time; for one reason or another, some people just do not lock their cars and homes.
"It's just so easy to do," New Canaan Police Sgt. Carol Ogrinc said. "Sometimes it just gets frustrating when you keep telling the public to lock their car and some people just don't hear it. It's an extra step to keep (thieves) away and literally takes seconds."
New Canaan and Darien are generally considered safe towns, but on the other hand, they are also known for wealthy residents with upscale property. Police say residents can be sure that would-be perpetrators are fully aware of the towns' reputations.
"Vehicle burglaries are a wide spread epidemic in Fairfield county," Darien Police Capt. Fred Komm said. "People come into Darien because it has a reputation for being upscale, but it's pretty common in a lot of towns, especially along the I-95 corridor."
A rash of car vehicle burglaries has prompted Darien Police to encourage residents to take steps to protect themselves from having property stolen.
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Komm said in many instances where a vehicle is burglarized, the perpetrator isn't necessarily looking to commit a crime.
"It's a crime of opportunity," Komm said. "Someone might walk up to a vehicle and tug on the door handle to see if it's locked and if not, they'll grab what they can from inside."
Cash and items like GPS units, iPods and smartphones are of particular interest to thieves because they are usually left in plain sight, Komm said. To better protect items of value, especially electronics, Komm said there are a number of steps people can take.
The first suggestion is to always lock your vehicle no matter where you are at the time. However, if you are going to leave your vehicle unattended for any length of time, Komm recommends placing any items of value out of sight. Also, electronic devices that are stolen will often end up at pawn shops and can be easily identified if the owner marks the device in a distinctive manner.
"You could mark it with something as simple as your initials, but you should do it in an area that isn't readily visible," Komm said.
An alternative to marking your devices is to register the serial number of the product with the police department.
"If you know the serial number we can enter it into a database," he said. "It's a national database, so if the item shows up somewhere else officers can determine where it came from."
In addition to filing police reports for many of these thefts, the victims also make insurance claims in a few instances, though mainly when damage is done through forced entry, according to insurance agents.
However, when dealing with claims on stolen property from a vehicle, it gets a little tricky. Michael Saunders, an agent with Allstate in New Canaan, said items "stolen" or "missing" from vehicles actually fall under home owner's insurance.
"Some policies cover very limited items in your car, like luggage, but most of the time you're not going to the airport. The car insurance covers the car but your personal property falls under home insurance. It also depends on what was stolen. My home insurance has a $1,000 deductible so they would have to steal something very expensive before I even try to put a claim on it. Usually, I don't have something worth over $1,000 in my car," Saunders said with a laugh. "But it has happened. I had a customer a few years back that just got married and had all their wedding gifts in the car. That was stolen and became a big issue."
So the reason that many of these larcenies around town do not get filed as insurance claims may have to do with the fact that property worth more than $1,000 is not usually stolen from vehicles.
"Most people lock their car I would say. I feel that way, at least I do. Even here in New Canaan," Saunders said. "Though they usually only file claims when the car has been damaged."
As is the case with the police, Saunders advises all his customers to keep their doors locked, whether it is their car or house.
"I advise people when they buy a house that they should change the locks because you don't know who has a key," Saunders said. "A big issue I find is that most home insurance policies cover the majority of your items but there are certain items that you need to get special riders (extra coverage) for, like jewelry, antiques, and fine arts. Jewelry in particular is one of the big ticket items that are easy to steal and usually left out. You need to get riders for those items to insure them because the standard policy covers very limited jewelry or nothing."
Saunders also advises all of his customers to file a police report if there is even the smallest suspicion of criminal activity because insurance claims are easier to work with when there are established police reports.
"On the insurance, there is nothing written in the contract that you have to lock your door on your auto insurance. Of course we advise you to take prudent precautions to make sure you don't have extra claims," Saunders said.
Yet even with advisement from insurance agencies and law enforcement, some people still do not lock their vehicles. When asked if it matters at all that someone might be leaving their doors unlocked from an insurance perspective, Saunders said that while nothing addresses that specifically, customers can still be in danger of losing their policy if they file a lot of claims.
"If you have too many claims of any type on your insurance, you certainly risk losing the policy. It doesn't matter what type of claim, if you have a lot of them, you could be non-renewed. That would be the worse-case scenario because of frequency. That can happen with any company really."
New Canaan police Chief Ed Nadriczny and Sgt. Carol Ogrinc offered up basic tips on protecting your assets.
"Don't keep real valuable things visible in your car. It is just another thing tempting them to get in there," Ogrinc said. "Lock it in the trunk. I cannot remember anyone breaking into someone's trunk here in New Canaan. These extra steps are simple and easy. It just needs to be second nature."
"I would stress that we need to have our residents make it difficult for those people intent on committing a criminal act to do so. That means locking your cars if they are parked in the driveway overnight or in a public place during the day. That especially goes for public parking lots, places such as Waveny Park, the Waveny Park pool, and the YMCA," Nadriczny said.
"There are people out there because of disposition to criminal activity or perhaps due to the current economic climate that are looking for easy targets and if you leave your cars unlocked with valuables such as pocket books, wallets, iPods, computers and cash, those will quickly disappear and its easy to do so if your vehicle is unlocked and you leave them in plain site. So put your valuables in the trunk to keep it out of plain view. Lock your car no matter where it is parked if it is left unattended. Keep in mind there are numerous locations in town where we have had thefts reported from vehicles and the majority of those vehicles were left unlocked."
Staff writer Ben Holbrook contributed to this report.