SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Car crimes are not uncommon in Sioux Falls, or other parts of the state, for that matter, and according to Sioux Falls Police Public Information Officer Sam Clemens, they’re often hard to solve.
“There’s really no certain age or demographic. It could be anybody,” said Clemens, describing the variety of people who engage in car crimes.
“Thefts from any car really — those are incredibly difficult to solve,” said Clemens. “There’s generally no connection between the victim and suspect. It’s almost a matter of opportunity. It doesn’t take very long, so there’s not a good chance for witnesses.”
Clemens broke things down into two different common categories when it comes to car crimes; thefts where a car, whether locked or unlocked, is broken into, and robberies, where a person is in the car when it is either stolen or stolen from.
Among the thefts, unlocked cars are by far the most common victims according to Clemens.
“There’s just a lot of criminals that know people will leave their doors unlocked,” said Clemens. “We’ve seen pretty much anything you can imagine [stolen]; purses, wallets, small change, computers — anything high-end — anything and everything is left in cars.”
Thefts from locked cars, whether via the breaking of a window or the jimmying a lock, are more rare Clemens said, but they do happen. Really it boils down to removing valuables from your vehicle, he added.
“What complicates that — you usually think about holiday time when people are shopping and have a lot of gifts and stuff, but the best thing you can do is if you can’t remove items from your car, try to hide it or put something over it,” said Clemens.
We asked if window tint can benefit car owners in these situations, and Clemens said while it could be something that helps, it’s not a guarantee to prevent all crime. “You have criminals that may break windows just because,” he explained.
Clemens again belabored the point of making sure you lock your car doors, even if you’re only stepping away for a few minutes.
“If you think about how long it would take somebody to walk up to a car, open it up, reach inside and grab a purse — grab a bag — grab a laptop, close the door and walk away. I mean we’re probably talking 20 seconds,” Clemens said. “It doesn’t take long.”
Car-jackings, events where your car is physically taken from you, are more rare than thefts from unattended vehicles.
“The main thing people need to do is just be aware of their surroundings,” Clemens said. “If you’re in your car there is some advantage unless you’re stuck in a place where you can’t drive. You have the ability to drive away. That’s probably the biggest advantage to being in the car.”
In terms of paying attention to your surroundings, Clemens says to be aware of suspicious activity around you. If you feel unsafe, he says to get to the safest place you can, whether that’s a business, a group of people or your car, and call police.
“A lot of time people see something and they’re like ‘ehhh, I didn’t think that that was something I should be calling police about,’ — but if it doesn’t feel right — that’s the type of thing where you should be calling police,” Clemens explained.
Clemens also said that in the event that you can’t get away from the situation, it is generally considered safer to comply with the robber than to fight back/engage.
When deciding which course of action to take, he says you should consider what is at stake, and whether the person is intending to harm you, or looking to take something from you.
“That is an important distinction. If somebody’s trying to take property or take something, that item, that property, can be replaced,” said Clemens. “It may be a big inconvenience — but it’s property — there’s really no reason to put yourself in harm’s way for some type of property.”