By Moses Leos III
Recent incidents involving burglars opening unlocked vehicles in neighborhoods has Kyle Police Department Chief Jeff Barnett stressing vigilance on the public’s part.
While the rate of car burglaries isn’t any higher than normal, Barnett said unlocked cars give criminals an easy chance to strike.
“When burglars are successful with opening doors without noise, and with the opportunity to gain something of value for nothing, it entices them to comeback time and time again into our community,” he said.
According to Barnett, a burglar pulling door handles isn’t new. The trend has hit neighborhoods across Buda and Kyle. However, recent incidents in several Kyle subdivisions bring the situation to light.
Barnett said Kyle Police have arrested “a few people” in connection with neighborhood vehicle burglaries. Austin Police recently arrested two adults and two juveniles after recovering a stolen car with stolen items from Kyle and Buda vehicles.
Kyle and Austin Police are investigating the circumstances of those crimes.
In December, Kyle Police caught 17-year-old Randy Aviles of Kyle in the midst of burglarizing a car in Plum Creek. Aviles is believed to have burglarized multiple vehicles by pulling on door handles.
Barnett said burglars often strike in the early morning hours, walking down streets to find unlocked car doors.
Increasing lighting in neighborhoods is one deterrent, Barnett said. Keeping car doors locked and valuables out of sight is the best defense.
That extends to garages and homes as well. Barnett said officers at times would notify homeowners if they find a garage door open in the early morning hours.
Kyle Police Department has taken several steps to curb the problems. Along with increased patrols, the department is asking officers to spend “as much time as possible” in neighborhoods.
Officers have also taken extra assignments and are rearranging schedules. Using unmarked police units is another tactic. The department has also held crime prevention meetings with homeowners sssociations.
The growing number of personal outdoor video cameras is an additional asset, according to Barnett.
“We also ask people who have outdoor video cameras that may catch a glimpse of burglaries to share that with us as well,” he said.
However, Barnett said recent incidents haven’t led to a spike in car burglaries. Kyle has averaged ten police reports per year for burglary of a motor vehicle from the years 2009 to 2013.
Incidents are also occurring across the city, he said. Almost every neighborhood has had a call for service due to burglary of a motor vehicle.
However, Kyle police had crime prevention meetings with residents from the Waterleaf, Post Oak and Amberwood subdivisions.
In Buda, residential car burglaries aren’t as common of late according to Police Chief Bo Kidd. But Buda Police recently arrested a man who is suspected to have committed several car burglaries in the Bonita Vista subdivision. A plainclothes officer in an unmarked car caught the burglar in the act.
According to Kidd, the suspect followed the pattern of checking for unlocked car doors. He estimates 95 percent of residential car burglaries are due to such issues.
Buda Police has also talked with HOAs to remind residents to lock car doors and remove valuables. Buda Police has also increased patrols in areas where they see patterns of crimes.
“Not leaving things in plain view and locking doors. If you do that, you limit the odds of becoming a victim,” Kidd said.
As Kyle works to put more officers on the street, Barnett stresses due diligence from homeowners.
“People need to understand the importance of locking their car doors and not leaving valuables in the car,” he said.