Sheriff warns residents to keep their cars, identities secure

NEWARK, NJ — Sheriff Armando Fontoura issued a reminder on March 27 to local motorists that statistics reveal a car is broken into every 30 seconds somewhere across our nation. Fontoura added that Essex County is not exempt to that alarming statistic.

“During this past weekend, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in car break-ins throughout our county on local streets and at our parks and reservations,” the sheriff said in the statement. “Regretfully, victims have left not only personal valuables in plain sight in their cars but also the type of personal information that makes them vulnerable to identity theft.”

Typical items left in plain view inside vehicles include wallets, purses, cell phones and laptop computers.

“These items, along with vehicle registration papers and insurance cards, are what every identity thief covets,” Fontoura said. “Your credit cards, driver’s license, social security number and other personal information are the essential information thieves need to create havoc for you via identity theft. They steal your life story then run up extravagant bills in your name or commit crimes, such as fraud, in your name.”

Also frequently left in visible sight inside parked cars are iPods in cup holders, GPS systems suctioned onto dashboards, and a few dollars and some loose change left on center consoles for the next toll.

“Motorists should never leave wallets, handbags, backpacks, cell phones or computers unattended in a parked vehicle,” Fontoura said. “The impact of identity theft on its victims can be devastating. Identity theft causes major issues for the victim, including financial loss, credit problems, benefit losses, legal problems if the thief is arrested and uses your personal information as his own, and the enormous amount of time it takes to fully rectify the damages made to your reputation.”

The sheriff urges all local motorists to implement target-hardening practices in respect to their vehicles.

“To prevent vehicle break-ins employ common-sense techniques,” Fontoura said. “Roll your windows up to the top, lock your doors, park in a well-lit area and remove all valuables. These valuables include cash, electronic equipment, papers with personal identifiers, such as mail and vehicle data. Never leave your garage door opener in the car as this tool will give the thief access to your home.”

The sheriff noted that trying to hide these items inside your vehicle is virtually pointless.

“Once inside your car, the thief will go through your glove box and center console, flip over your floor mats and gain access to your trunk in a matter of seconds,” Fontoura said.

To further prevent car break-ins the sheriff recommends that residents report all suspicious activity, such as persons walking up and down aisles of parking lots looking into cars or trying door handles, vehicles cruising parking lots at very slow speeds for extended periods while observing parked cars, and persons making any kind of mark or placing anything on parked vehicles, to your local police or sheriff’s department.

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