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Burglaries to vehicles in Wilmette more than doubled last year

Wilmette Police Chief Brian King plans to revive a poster campaign from several years ago to remind residents to lock their car doors at night. (John P. Huston, Tribune reporter)

Wilmette Police Chief Brian King plans to revive a poster campaign from several years ago to remind residents to lock their car doors at night. (John P. Huston, Tribune reporter)

Burglaries to parked automobiles more than doubled in Wilmette last year, compared to 2010, and police are preparing a campaign to remind residents to lock their doors at night.

There were 108 incidents of auto burglaries reported in 2011 in Wilmette — up from 53 the previous year. The vast majority were vehicles parked outside residences with unlocked doors, said Wilmette Police Chief Brian King.

“We have a low crime community. We do not have a no-crime community,” King said. “I see locking your vehicle overnight as an act of good citizenship, because you’re discouraging these thefts from occurring. The most effective thing we can do together to discourage this type of crime is to just lock your doors.”

The trend did not stop after December. King said there have already been 46 auto burglaries reported through April 2012, including eight incidents from April 26-28. If it continues at that pace, the village would see 138 auto burglaries this year.

Global Positioning System devices are a popular target, as are laptop computers and wallets left inside vehicles, King said. But burglars often walk down a street or alley pulling on door handles. If one opens, they’ll rummage through the glove box or front console, taking anything of value, including loose change, he said.

In the past eight months, police made two significant arrests of burglary crews that targeted the village, King said. The first, in August 2011, was a group targeting unlocked vehicles near Wilmette’s elevated train station near Fourth Avenue and Linden Street, King said. The other arrest took place in March, resulting after police bulked up patrol after detecting a pattern of criminal behavior.

That arrest was “made by an officer who was specifically assigned to a neighborhood on weekends that had experienced overnight burglaries,” King said.

He estimated the two crews were responsible for about 50 of the auto burglaries in recent months.

“If two crews are responsible for 50 cases you can see how these numbers would quickly escalate,” King said.

Also noted in the 2011 crime statistics were a 14 percent uptick in residential burglaries — increasing from 50 in 2010 to 58 last year. King said there was a run between August and December, but an arrest put a dent in the crime, which has tailed off in early 2012.

Here are the numbers of reported incidents in 2011, by crime:

OFFENSES 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Homicide 0 3 2 0 0
Criminal Sexual Assault 1 6 0 2 2
Robbery 4 3 9 6 0
Aggravated Battery 1 10 5 0 5
Aggravated Assault 2 2 1 2 2
Burglary (residential, commercial and non-residential) 80 88 112 110 57
Burglary to Motor Vehicle 109 53 72 134 67
Theft 212 230 215 252 230
Motor Vehicle Theft 6 4 2 4 6
Arson 1 2 5 3 1

Source: Wilmette Police Department

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