Thefts from shopping carts and vehicles at shopping venues have become increasingly frequent in Central Texas.

With the onset of warmer weather, people are more likely to leave vehicle windows open while they shop, frequently leaving valuables in plain view where a thief of any expertise can easily relieve you of your property. Even an opportunist, who is not a common thief would be tempted by such carelessness.

Leaving vehicle windows open while the vehicle is unattended is essentially leaving the vehicle unlocked, even if the window is only slightly open. Any thief worth his or her salt can easily unlock a door though the slightest crack.

Over 75 percent of reported vehicle burglaries targeted unlocked vehicles last year. Some of these vehicles were stolen, simply because the owner left the keys in the ignition. For these careless dolts, I have no sympathy.

Additionally, many insurance companies are reluctant to pay claims when the loss was the result of such carelessness. At the very least, premium rates will rise if the policy remains in force.

Thefts from shopping carts both inside and outside stores are preventable.

Everyone should be aware that thieves are everywhere shoppers are. These thieving pond scum spend their sober and waking hours seeking out potential victims.

A few preventive measures can lessen a person’s chances of being victimized by a lurking thief while shopping or attending public social functions. Here are a few common sense acts of prevention:

Never leave a wallet or purse unattended for any length of time. It takes a thief mere seconds to grab and go.

While shopping, never leave a handbag or wallet in a shopping cart. During the time your attention is diverted by scanning shelves or reaching for merchandise, a thief can easily snatch it and quickly depart the area.

Shop with a wallet tucked into a pocket, rather than carry a handbag with valuables you do not intend to use. Secure the handbag at home or in the trunk of your car.

o Carry only the credit cards you intend to use. In the event your purse or wallet is stolen, you will only have that card to address and replace. If the card is stolen, notify your credit card company immediately. Doing so will limit your liability and deny the thief the proceeds of his disgusting act.

When loading your purchases into your vehicle, secure your purse or wallet before unloading groceries or merchandise from your shopping cart.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Whether inside the store or in the parking lot, people loitering in the area may be seeking a potential victim. Thieves often work together. One thief may distract the victim while the other steals the targeted valuables.

If you feel threatened, return to the store and request an escort to your vehicle.

Common sense and care will reduce your chances of being victimized by a thief.

John Vander WERFF is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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