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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Locked automobiles prevent holiday crime, sheriff warns

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TAMPA — Despite the holiday season’s reputation as “the most wonderful time of year,” some people see it as the time to take advantage of others. That’s why the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is urging people to lock their car doors.

The agency unveiled a public service announcement Monday that will hit the airwaves this week, emphasizing the need for drivers to lock their doors after exiting their vehicles.

“By just getting the message out there to lock your car doors, we can be so much safer as a community and more efficient as a sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said. “For our citizens, you may say your neighborhood is safe — we want to make every neighborhood safe — but at the same time, criminals go for opportunity.

“If they can get into an unlocked car door, they’re going to, especially now with the holiday season coming up. These parking lots, you’re going to see people out there roaming parking lots trying to lift door handles and trying to break in.”

He said those thieves aren’t looking for attention by breaking windows in that setting. Instead they will go from car to car, and once a door opens, they take what they can get.

In 2012 there were 1,541 auto burglaries in Pasco County, Lt. Brian Prescott said. Of those burglaries, more than 1,000 of the cars were unlocked.

These aren’t just kids having fun. In many cases, Nocco said, they are addicts looking to fuel a habit by selling what they pillage.

In addition to preventing material losses and feelings of victimization, locking a car’s doors can prevent man hours from piling up for authorities.

Depending on the severity of a burglary, deputies can be pulled off normal duty to investigate. Property crimes detectives can be brought into the investigation, as can forensic units.

There were five finalists for the public service announcement contest conducted on the sheriff’s office Facebook page. The top vote-getter starred in the video, which was shot at a Pasco park.

Mackenna Watkins, 5, of New Port Richey, won the contest and was featured in the 30-second flick. She played the role of Crimefighter Jenny.

After Mackenna, the top vote-getters were Blake Pole, 5, Wesley Chapel; Arianna Williams, 6, New Port Richey; Journy Richardson, 6, Land O’ Lakes; and Joseph Espinal, 7, Wesley Chapel.

Arianna, Journy and Joseph visited the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office administration building Monday to catch a glimpse of the commercial, which will air on Bright House Networks affiliates, including A&E, Discover, History and TBS.

The ad, which will run until Dec. 8, cost $6,500 to air. The money came from Crime Prevention fund, sheriff’s office spokesman Kevin Doll said.

Once the run dates ends, the agency, at any time, can renew the ad’s airtime.

Recently authorities began canvassing neighborhoods hit by a rash of break-ins. They give crime prevention literature and dole out tips.

“When a neighborhood’s hit, a lot of times a next-door neighbor won’t realize that there’s somebody doing bad things in their neighborhood,” Prescott said. “So the sheriff feels it’s incumbent upon us to warn them and remind them. We’re not preaching doom and gloom by any means, but his philosophy is, ‘Let’s make these people aware and the onus is on us to inform them of what’s going on.’ ”

edaniels@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1860

Twitter: @EDanielsTBO

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