Keep valuables out of sight, away from thieves

by Robert Szostek
U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal Public Affairs

HEIDELBERG, Germany ― U.S. forces personnel can easily become victims of car break-ins, and often they unwittingly tempt thieves, warn officials at the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal.

Satellite navigation devices are the most popular items for crooks, but laptops, ID cards, gas cards, passports, purses, cameras, cell phones, radios, license plates and military clothing items are also regularly stolen from cars and vans.

“The main problem is that property is left in plain view inside military and civilian vehicles,” said Capt. Richard K. Robinson, the USAREUR OPM’s law enforcement staff officer.

Another big problem is that some people just don’t lock their vehicles, OPM officials added.

“It is not only important to lock your vehicle when it is unattended, but also the law in many countries in Europe,” Robinson said.

But a locked vehicle alone is no deterrent, the captain warned. If thieves see something valuable in plain sight inside, they will gladly smash a window or cut open a canvas top to grab it.

“It is best to never leave anything valuable in a car when it is unattended,” Robinson added. “Crooks know all the hiding places for electronic devices.” If you have to leave something in the car, the trunk is the safest place, he said.

Robinson also cautioned about a trick criminals use that often targets women driving alone.

Someone indicates there is something wrong on the driver’s side of the vehicle, he explained, and while the driver is distracted, an accomplice opens the passenger’s side door or reaches through an open window and steals the driver’s purse.

Robinson offered some tips for people who will be driving on vacations this season, to help reduce their chances of becoming victims of crime:

• Keep baggage and valuables out of sight, preferably locked in the trunk. When staying overnight, take valuables inside with you.

• If you have a detachable satellite navigation system or radio, always take it out when you leave the car.

• Always lock your car while driving, while getting gas, at rest stops and when parked.

• Never leave valuable documents such as passports or ID cards in your vehicle — always keep them in your possession.

• Maps and guidebooks on the dashboard show that you’re a tourist — keep them in the glove box.

• Stay away from cars driving erratically.

• Never pick up hitchhikers.

• Report thefts to military and local police, regardless of the country you are in. You may need a police report to file an insurance report as well.

For more security and crime prevention tips, contact the Provost Marshal Office in your community. Pamphlets on car and vacation security are available from the National Crime Prevention Council at