‘Tis the season for car thefts and prowls

SEATTLE - A new report by National Insurance Crime Bureau demonstrates the holidays are hot for car thieves.

Last year, a total of 9,600 vehicles were reported stolen between Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

If you’re not careful, area law enforcement are warning your Christmas could get stolen right out from under you.

“I have had cars broken into many times,” said Kelly Marczak as she loaded up her car with gifts on Monday.

It’s part of the reason she’s putting the presents directly into her trunk.

She said the break-ins feel like a violation of privacy.

“When I got inside, I feel like my home got broken into even though it’s my car,” she said. “The energy is different in my car for a few days.”

Marczak said she triple-checks the front and back seats before she goes anywhere.

“I make sure I take my purse with me every time, and make sure I don’t have things that might interest people in my car,” she said.

Law enforcement say that is the number one rule people need to follow this holiday season to protect themselves: Lock your cars and grab any valuables.

The second tip, according to retired detective Myrle Carner with Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound, is don’t return to your car with any purchases, unless it’s time to go home.

“People watch to see what you do,” Carner said.

It may sound creepy, but it’s exactly what you think he said. If you’re buying a big TV, make it the last purchase on your shopping list, not the first.

“They’re going to shopping malls and looking into cars to see what they can steal,” Carner said.

Walking presents out to your car and then walking back into the mall is an open invitation for crooks.

“You’re better off to go home, unload your stuff and then go out and do your second shopping,” he said.

Tip No. 3 is to wait for that perfect parking spot.

“Try to park as close as you can to the actual shopping area,” Carner said.

Thieves will often pick out cars away from lights in less trafficked areas. By parking close to the mall, you’re less likely to become a target.

Tip No. 4,  Carner said, is to not hide gifts in the trunk of your car. A thief might spot them, or take your car without realizing they’re getting away with your Christmas list in tow.

“People that are out there to steal your car, they’re pretty good and they’re fast,” he said. “Your car can be gone, presents can be gone, in a heartbeat.”

That very thing happened in Marysville over the weekend. A mom left all her Black Friday shopping in the trunk of her minivan. Her Honda Odyssey was stolen, along with $200 worth of Christmas gifts for her four children.

Tip No. 5 comes from Seattle Police, who posted an informational video to YouTube about holiday safety. They are reminding people to not advertise any purchases you may have made to social media or through your living room window.

If you have presents parked under the tree, they encourage people to draw their blinds.