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Shoplifting and car burglaries sour some holiday spirit

Unlocked cars in parking lots around downtown Santa Barbara shopping areas are a welcoming sign for thieves looking for easy items to steal, especially around the holidays.

Santa Barbara Police say shoppers need to lock their valuables in their trunk if they can. While that is a logical recommendation, many people leave gift bags and boxes in plain sight inside their vehicles, and doors unlocked. In some cases, windows are down.

NewsChannel 3 found many examples inside of a parking lot near Ortega Street this afternoon.

In recent years, more surveillance cameras have been added in and around parking lots and shopping areas.

Some shoppers say they have seen people hanging around parking areas they thought were suspicious or about to commit a crime.

Police say “be a great witness” if you see a possible suspect. Get a good description and call 911 right away, even if you aren’t sure a crime has been committed.

Securing holiday gifts in your car may seem like a top priority….but we have found many vehicles in downtown Santa Barbara with unlocked doors and valuables in plain sight.

One shopper said she is not going to make it easy for a criminal. “Right now, I am carrying everything with me then I am going back to my car, then I lock it,” said shopper Kelsey Moore. “Sometimes I will take stuff home and then come back down but I have noticed people checking out cars and looking around so I try to be careful.”

Several cars had clear indicators that they were unlocked.

One had a window down far enough that you could reach inside and grab the just bought gift bags, or unlock the door.In one car that appeared to be unlocked, there was cash and a wallet.

Police and local security guards are increasing their presence in the shopping district, hoping to deter a thief or help to catch one.

Sgt. Riley Harwood, with the Santa Barbara Police Department said, more uniformed and community service officers, are on the lookout for criminals. “Traditionally we have deployed resources at different times we call them “Safe Shopper” details. Sometimes they are on foot. Sometimes on bicycles. They are in those areas where we expect property crimes to occur.”

Because more city parking lots and downtown buildings have surveillance cameras. “There is a much greater likelihood these days of someone getting caught on camera that there was in the past,” said Harwood.

Just talking about car security makes some people think twice about their vehicle.
“I am going to my car and I hope that I locked it,” said John Hall. He was not happy to hear of the possible crimes that happen this time of year. “We’re lucky to live in Santa Barbara but there are people around here that want to take advantage of the situation especially during the holidays.”

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