Auto thefts, auto burglaries climb with Holiday shopping season

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Residents in this Kechi neighborhood say auto burglars went house to house, ransacking cars for portable items to steal. Residents in this Kechi neighborhood say auto burglars went house to house, ransacking cars for portable items to steal.
Valerie Smallwood recorded thieves going through her family's cars in the driveway on a surveillance camera mounted on the outside of her home. Valerie Smallwood recorded thieves going through her family's cars in the driveway on a surveillance camera mounted on the outside of her home.
Hutchinson Police say auto thieves and auto burglars are targeting all neighborhoods right now in their search for unlocked vehicles. Hutchinson Police say auto thieves and auto burglars are targeting all neighborhoods right now in their search for unlocked vehicles.
HUTCHINSON and KECHI, Kan. (KAKE) -

Thieves ransacking vehicles in neighborhoods and parking lots across the state, that's what Kansans  are up against this holiday season.

"It was just like, 'Wow!'" said Valerie Smallwood of Kechi.  "They were up and down the drive way, in those cars, in my husband's truck, looking in this one, looking in that one."

Auto thefts and auto burglaries are up in most cities in Kansas, as thieves take advantage of the Christmas shopping season to get their hands on brand new, high priced items.

The Kechi police chief says this last weekend thieves rifled through cars throughout one neighborhood.  Among the items they stole was a box of 9 millimeter ammunition.

Valerie Smallwood caught those thieves on a surveillance camera mounted above her garage as they went through her family's cars.  She says this is the second time thieves have targeted her family.

"That's why we put in the cameras," Valerie said.  "Cause my husband's truck was parked out on the street and they busted the window out and stole all kinds of stuff from him that time."

She says the thieves didn't get anything this time around, because her family no longer keeps stuff in the vehicles when they're parked at the house.  Her biggest concern this time? Her family never heard a thing. 

"It was freaky!" she said.

In Reno County, Hutchinson Police say they're dealing with a potential ring of burglars targeting mostly vehicles in the city.  Officers say the thieves are looking for easy targets, especially unlocked doors and portable, high price items that can be sold quickly.  Investigators say the group is striking randomly around the city, hitting entire neighborhoods at a time.

"There is no special area that I would say that is safe in town to leave your car unlocked," said Capt. Martin Robertson with the Hutchinson Police.  "They're mobile.  And, of course, they're going to be looking for nicer cars and trying to find nicer property inside those cars."

Capt. Robertson says thanks to this group auto thefts and auto burglaries combined in Hutchinson jumped 14.7% from 210 in all of 2017 to 241 so far in 2018, and still climbing.  Comparing November 2017 to November 2018, that jump was 113.7% from 29 to 62.

He says they have at least one known suspect in the case and hope to make an arrest soon.  Still, there are things you can do to keep your possessions safe.

"We ask that if you are going to go shopping that you lock your cars and put everything in your trunk," he said.

Valerie has a similar recommendation.

"Don't leave anything they want to not get stolen in their cars," she said.  "Keep them locked.  That helps.  Just make sure you don't have anything valuable or anything in your car."

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