Parked cars

If your car is parked in a public area, take your valuables with you or hide them in the trunk. And always lock your car, police say.

A thief stole a wallet, sunglasses and bicycle GPS system from a parked SUV while the 24-year-old owner was exercising in Dahlman Park.

Someone took a woman’s wallet from her car while it was parked outside her north Omaha home.

As the weather gets warmer, people — both crooks and potential crime victims — head outside. But Lauren Genier, a crime prevention specialist with the Omaha Police Department, says people can take some simple steps to keep from getting ripped off.

Genier, who works in the northwest police precinct, said that when it warms up, she sees more thefts from vehicles at parks, recreation areas, athletic events and the parking lots at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

“The chances of a thief finding an unlocked car with a lot of high-value items is greater, so they’ll target those more popular areas,” she said.

Genier advises people to remove valuable items from their cars or at least put stuff out of sight in the trunk.

Cars should always be locked, whether they’re in a parking lot or the driveway. Some people like to keep their doors unlocked so potential thieves won’t break a window to gain entry, but Genier doesn’t advise that.

“It seems more rare that someone would break a window and try to get into the car. It’s very loud and it’s riskier,” she said. “If something of high value is in plain sight, that’s going to be more of a likely target where they might break a window.”

Even a bag containing gym clothes could look attractive to a thief who might think a laptop computer is inside, Genier said.

People who leave their garage doors open while they tend their gardens or mow their lawns also risk getting targeted. Even if you’re in your backyard, Genier said, anyone could walk in and take things from the garage.

“You aren’t any the wiser until you go look for that thing they took,” Genier said.

She advised people to keep their garage doors closed and have a trusty neighbor or alarm system notify you if it’s accidentally left open. Even Omaha police officers patrolling neighborhoods may knock on your door to let you know your garage is open, she said.

As always, if you see something, say something.

“In the summer, it’s not uncommon to see everyone out on a walk,” she said. “If you see someone acting suspiciously, call 911, and we’ll come check it out.”

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Alia Conley covers breaking news, crime, crime trends, the Omaha Police Department and initial court hearings. Follow her on Twitter @aliavalentine. Phone: 402-444-1068.

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