One Ramstein Airman said she felt distraught and angry upon discovering he had been a victim of theft, but security forces wants others to know she is not alone.
“I’ve lived here for three years and nothing like this has happened,” said Airman 1st Class Stephanie Santos, 435th Medical Support Squadron technician.
“I live across the street from a church in a very safe neighborhood. I know all of my
neighbors and it’s just a friendly place.”
Airman Santos said her doors were locked and she had an alarm, but the alarm failed to go off and she returned to find her window smashed and a GPS and a carton of cigarettes stolen.
Security forces members want others to know Airman Santos is just one of the many recent
victims of vehicle burglaries, and it is preventable.
“Historically, we have had some problems here and there with break-ins, but recently we have witnessed a spike,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Paine, 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron criminal investigator.
In the last six months, Ramstein-Miesenbach and Kaiserslautern have had numerous vehicle break-ins. In each case, the stories are similar – the
servicemember lives in what they consider a nice neighborhood, they leave their vehicle parked and locked with the alarm armed, and the next morning they find the window busted out and something stolen.
Security forces said many of the incidents happen not because servicemembers forget to lock their vehicle doors but because high-dollar, easily removable items are left in plain sight.
“Take your high-dollar items with you when you get out of your vehicle; at least lock them out of plain sight,” Sergeant Paine said.
Senior Airman Keith Allen, 721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron chew chief, had the driver’s side window of his 2001 Chevy Malibu busted out, but said nothing was found to be missing.
“I assume they were looking for a GPS due to the GPS mounting bracket being attached to the windshield. A lot of stuff had been pulled out of the glove box and the center console was left opened,” he said.
Unfortunately, for victims like Airman Allen, it costs a lot to replace a window and any other damages to a vehicle.
In Airman Allen’s case, it will cost him nearly €400 to have his window replaced.
What’s worse, much of the stolen equipment is never returned, even if the individual files a police report with the Polizei.
“Usually, a servicemember will notice their car has been broken into and call us, but off-base incidents fall under the German laws and Polizei jurisdiction,” Sergeant Paine said. “Most times, even if we or the Polizei recover stolen equipment, if it is not marked or the owner doesn’t know the serial number on the equipment, they can’t get it back.”
Airman Santos said he had reported his car broken into immediately, reported it to police and did everything necessary to get his GPS back and cover the cost of the repairs. But this is often not the case.
“People need to keep the boxes for their items, such as a GPS or iPod, or they have to write (the serial numbers) down somewhere. Without that, we can file the report and try to locate the equipment but in most cases they will not see it again,” Sergeant Paine said. “From what we have seen, very rarely when a servicemember’s car has the red blinking alarm light will it be a target for break-in, but the best advice is to lock your belongings in the glove box or out of sight.”