SHERIDAN — Vehicle thefts in Sheridan this year have already almost surpassed last year’s total.
The Sheridan Police Department reported 18 vehicle thefts between Jan. 1 and June 15. Twenty vehicles were reported stolen throughout the entire 2012 calendar year.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show the months of July and August typically see the most vehicle theft activity nationwide, and only 52 percent are recovered.
Sheridan police Lt. Chris Dahmke said that statistic holds true locally as well.
“Typically the warmer months are when we have more thefts because there’s more people out walking on foot and so forth,” he said.
Dahmke added that he is not aware of a specific reason why this year’s numbers are higher, however, he said he doesn’t find the numbers concerning. They are within what he called a normal variance.
Dahmke said the good news is vehicle owners in Sheridan can take steps that will almost eliminate the chances their automobile will become a crime scene.
“Ninety-nine percent of vehicle thefts can be prevented if people lock up their cars,” Dahmke said. “Most of the vehicle burglaries we run into are done by opportunists, meaning they walk down the street and check doors. If the door is unlocked, they can get what they want and they’re gone.”
In other words, he said, it’s not likely a criminal will go out of their way to pick a lock or attempt another type of loud, time-consuming entry to the vehicle.
“Rarely do we ever see smash and grab-type of thefts,” he said.
Dahmke said even having a small amount of change in the vehicle consul can motivate a thief to check the door and make a quick grab for anything of value. This can include iPods, CDs, cell phones and even cigarettes.
“It has a cumulative effect. If you hit several cars in an evening, a few bucks out of each car can add up,” Dahmke said.
If items of value must be left in a vehicle, Dahmke said they should be kept out of sight. This means locking a purse in the trunk, rather than the cab, of a car or throwing a coat or blanket over items of value so they can’t be readily seen through the window by a prospective burglar or thief.
Another major step is to not leave keys in the vehicle ignition or consul. This, along with keeping doors locked and parking in either garages or well-lit areas greatly eliminates the risk of a vehicle being subject to theft.
Dahmke said that may sound easy enough, but for many Sheridanites, it isn’t second nature.
“This is Wyoming. We’re not used to having to worry about those type of things, but times are changing now,” he said. Wyoming is catching up with the rest of the country.”
Dahmke said there is no section of town where vehicles are at more risk than others.
The NHTSA also endorses anti-theft and immobilizer devices as a measure to prevent vehicle theft.