Zoo And Park Auto Burglaries On The Rise

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Car break-ins are on the rise in Sedgwick County, especially at the zoo and park.

To most, the Sedgwick County Zoo parking lot looks like it is full of empty cars.

To criminals, it looks like something much more.

"They look at this, and what they see is dollar signs, because there are lots of things in these cars out here that are worth a lot of money," said Sgt. Wayne Ruffner, Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office.

Within seconds of searching for cars with 'dollar signs' inside, Sgt. Ruffner finds several vehicles full of items in plain sight.

"What we have here is a lady's purse. I can see her wallet in there. I see an iPod sitting there. I see a billfold or something else sitting in the console. That's a criminals dream right there," said Sgt. Ruffner as he looked inside one vehicle.

Even though you think you may have hidden your items pretty well, the Sheriff's Office says burglars know exactly where to look.

"They don't want to carry anything extra, so they leave it in the car, and a criminal knows that," said Sgt. Ruffner.

In less than ten minutes, Sgt. Ruffner found about 75% of the vehicles he looked into had items a criminal would want.

Deputy Noah Stephens-Clark patrols the area daily.

He says the Sedgwick County park is no different.

One of the first cars he approached, had electronic wires hanging near the stereo, which could lead to an electronic item someone would want. He also found receipts in the back seat that could lead to identity theft.

"Basically, it's the public that has given them the opportunity to steal from them," said Deputy Stephens-Clark.

Reminding drivers of the mistake, he left a flyer on their car, with several prevention tips.

When they were finished with their walk, Kevin and Jennifer Lanergan were surprised to see the note, but glad to have it as a reminder.

"It's sad that you can't come to the park now and have some fun," said Kevin.

"Our awareness is somewhat heightened, but we're learning some more," said Jennifer.

The Sheriff's Office will be out in full force Saturday from 12-5 PM, leaving prevention and informational flyers on vehicles at the zoo and park.

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