Richmond Police leave park visitors clear warning after recent car break-ins

Crime

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Police offered a new slogan for visitors of the James River Park system after five cars were broken into Sunday at the park entrance at 20th and Riverside Drive. 

The department placed an electronic sign at the park entrance with the phrase: Love it? Lock it or Lose it. The message was put out there in an attempt to remind visitors to lock their car door and keep their valuables out of sight. 

Of the five cars broken into Sunday afternoon, three were unlocked. 

In the past year, RPD reports over 70 thefts from motor vehicles have occurred in the Riverside Drive area. Sixty-four of those thefts occurred between March and October. 

Richmond Police Lt. Brian Prendergast says a common theme in those thefts: smashed windows. 

Prendergast says in all 70 cases people left valuable items out in plain sight including purses, cell phones and laptops. 

“Love it? Lock it, or lose it. Basically, if you’re going to leave it out in plain view you are opening yourself up to be victimized,” Lt. Prendergast said. “So lock your vehicles. Put your stuff out of plain sight.” 

Wednesday was a beautiful spring day for runner Keith Harper. 

“I run trail mostly and these trails are great, so well maintained,” said Harper. 

Harper enjoys using the James River Park system but thinks twice before parking his car. 

“Locking the glove compartment and try leaving as little in the car as possible,” said Harper. “You know whether I leave it at home or have it on me.”

Richmond resident Sherwynn Trotman says he takes safety precautions one step further. 

“When weather gets better everyone wants to have their windows down or cracked even just a little bit and that can alert people to say hey it’s open,” said Trotman. “It’s just an invitation to say hey come on in and grab what you can.”

But not everyone thinks ahead before visiting parks like Trotman and Harper. 

“People are walking through the neighborhoods and pulling on door handles or smashing windows,” said Richmond Police Lt. Brian Prendergast. 

Prendergast told 8News visitors to the park from outside Richmond make up the majority of the victims, “97% of the vehicles that we have thefts from are from outside the city of Richmond.”  

As the weather warms up, police plan to step up patrols in the park. 

“There is no alcohol,’ said Prendergast. “It closes at dusk. And we are going to be policing the area. Looking specifically for thieves that victimize vehicles.”

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