Vehicle break-ins at University Park Mall causes concern for Mishawaka police

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By: Krystal Vivian kvivian@953mnc.com

Police are warning drivers to be on the lookout for suspicious people while they’re out shopping in Mishawaka.

Since Thanksgiving, at least 11 people have had items stolen out of their vehicles while at University Park Mall, Lt. Tim Williams with the Mishawaka Police Department said.

The unusual part about these 11 thefts is that a person can’t tell that items were stolen just by looking at the vehicles. There are no signs of forced entry at all — and often no clues.

The 11 vehicles in the thefts reported to the MPD were all GM models made in 2008 or newer, Williams said. While police don’t know exactly how the thefts are happening, they believe the suspect or suspects are using technology that either blocks or copies the signal sent from the vehicles’ key fob to the car.

“When we use our key fobs, we usually walk away from our vehicles and then we lock it, and so that sends out the signal,” Williams said.

Citizens can prevent that signal from being sent by using the power lock button on the inside of the car door instead of the key fob. If the signal isn’t sent, it could stop the would-be thief or thieves.

If items are stolen, citizens should contact police right away, even if they aren’t sure exactly where they were when the item was stolen. Reporting stolen items can also help people understand the crimes and identify possible suspects. Thefts like this have only been reported at the UP Mall, but Williams said that it could be happening anywhere in town and police just don’t know about it because it hasn’t been reported.

WHAT CITIZENS CAN DO TO HELP

Whenever possible, citizens should keep valuable items either with them or at home to avoid having them stolen.

“Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We’re in a hurry. We don’t take things out of our vehicles,” Williams said. “Leaving them out seems like a temptation or an invitation (to a would-be thief).”

Putting the items underneath a seat or in the trunk can be helpful, but isn’t always foolproof as those items can still be accessed if someone breaks into a vehicle.

Citizens can also help out by being observant and paying attention to their surroundings while in parking lots. Williams said that Mishawaka police believe the thief or thieves are in the same parking lot that the thefts happen in.

Suspicious activity could include a person or group of people sitting in a vehicle parked in the lot or someone walking around in between car lines.

”We’d rather be called on a suspicious person and it turns out to be nothing than for someone to have their possessions taken,“ Williams said.

If something is stolen, citizens should immediately call the Mishawaka Police Department at 574-258-1678. If a robbery is in progress, call 911.