Cold weather, lack of awareness linked to uptick in car thefts
By Jason Belt
A recent spike in car thefts may be due, in part, to colder temperatures and lack of awareness on the part of owners, local officials said during a virtual public safety meeting on Feb. 14.
According to officials with the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), by mid-February there had been 466 car thefts and 70 carjackings in the county this year. More than one-third of them occurred while owners left their cars running.
“You should feel secure at your house, and if you don’t want to lock your car, you don’t have to, but criminals do take advantage of that,” said Brandon Flax, a PGPD detective. “We usually see an uptick in the winter months when people are warming their car up,” he added.
As of press time, 37 of the 70 vehicles carjacked this year had been recovered, according to county police.
“Please turn off your car and lock it. When criminals are looking into people’s vehicles, they are looking for valuables,” Flax said. “If you park your vehicle in front of your house at night, just make sure you take out any valuables that are inside.”
Hondas and Toyotas top the list of stolen cars due, in part, to high resale value of parts, including airbags, rims and wheels. Juveniles are common suspects in these thefts; police are under the impression that youth may be sent by adults to scavenge parts from parked cars or steal cars and then sell them to be stripped for parts later.
“Many of my neighbors have had their windows smashed and small things like loose change and charger cords stolen,” said Sommie Atkinson, who lives in Berwyn Heights. “I had my catalytic converter stolen this past fall.”
County police urge witnesses to immediately call 911 if they see any suspicious activity instead of emailing the department or posting to social media. Calling gives the department a permanent record of the complaint, which can facilitate the investigation process.
“If you see something suspicious, I want you to call ,” PGPD Maj. James Keleti said. “There is valuable information when somebody calls 911 that the call center can take.”
The city hosts regular public safety meetings, which are held every second Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. Revolving topics focus on crime and community safety. Zoom access information is available at collegeparkmd.gov/publicsafety.