Nine vehicle burglaries occurred in Riley County Kansas in April 2014, according to Matthew Droge, public information officer for the Riley County Police Department. This April, that number rose to 26.
Droge said the majority of these involved vehicles which were unlocked, locked with windows rolled down or otherwise easily entered.
“Ninety percent of all vehicle burglaries in Riley County are involving a victim’s vehicle that was left unsecured in some way,” Droge said.
According to multiple police department officials, though, that problem is not limited to Manhattan alone.
“I would agree whole heartedly with (Droge),” Tim Brown, chief of police for the Junction City Police Department, said.
Brown said vehicle burglaries often happen because criminals look in through a window and see something they want. Modern technology has made it harder for criminals to enter vehicles inconspicuously when locked. Brown said entering a locked car is no longer as simple as using a coat hanger to enter, and that many vehicles come with built in alarm systems; however, many times the doors must be locked to activate these alarms.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take the precautions they need to by locking their vehicle,” Brown said.
In Wamego, similar issues are true, according Paul Schliffke, deputy chief of police for the Wamego Police Department. Only the occasional vehicle is actually broken into there, though.
“I can tell you the vast majority of our vehicle burguluries are because they unlocked,” Schliffke said.
Wamego is a small town compared to Manhattan. According to the Wamego website and Schliffke, the population there is only approximately 5,000. Schliffke attributed the amount of people who leave their cars unlocked partially to the small-town feel of Wamego.
“I think part of that is that people in a town the size of Wamego just like to trust others,” Schliffke said.
Droge said the same about Manhattan. Many people in Manhattan seem to believe they can leave their vehicles or houses unlocked. Droge said that simply is not the case, whether it is your apartment, home or vehicle.
“The same thing is true,” Droge said. “Even if it’s only for a few minutes, locking up is important.”
Sergeant Rod Gentry, supervisor for the South Division of the Property Investigation unit for the Kansas City Police Department, said many times people in Kansas City leave their cars unlocked, often with the keys in them, while they run into a convenience store, allowing criminals to easily steal their cars.
“We see that quite a bit,” Gentry said.
Regardless of the size of the city a person lives in though, Gentry said the biggest advice he can give to people to avoid burglaries is to be aware.
“The big thing is to just be aware of your surroundings,” Gentry said. “Lock your residences. Be aware of what people can see through the windows if they are at the front of your house looking in; maybe shut a curtain. It all kind of goes hand-in-hand.”
In Riley County, Droge said reduction of burglaries will have to be a community decision, even though Manhattan is an extremely safe place to live as it is.
“Until we can get a good majority of the community to lock up, we’re going to continue to see (burglaries),” Droge said. “It can’t be the police alone that prevent these.”