"Anytime a thief is looking for something that's a real easy target, they see a vehicle that has some valuables in it, that they can see and it looks like, 'oh wow, this is going to be easy takings,' that's exactly what's going to happen."
Deputy Sandy Johnson sees plenty of these scenes as an auto theft investigator with the Harris County Sheriff's Department, calling them crimes of opportunity. Johnson says thieves prowling parking lots know what they're looking for, usually small, expensive items they can grab easily just by breaking a window.
"You know they've got to be so fast. They're basically just going to break into that vehicle and they want to be out of there in just a few moments. And we've got to make that difficult for them. So, you know, the thing about it is, if we can't take everything out of our vehicle, we should at least secure it to the best of our ability."
Johnson says the best way to stay safe is to keep all valuables out of sight, and secure those items before you get to your destination. She says thieves could be watching while you put items into the trunk. And as a extra measure of security take along your important papers.
"Some people have gotten the idea that's against the law for them not to have their registration or their proof of insurance. It's not, you just have to have it on your person. Because if you think about it, those documents right there will tell a thief, if they take your vehicle, where you live. And if they've got a garage door opener that just makes it even that much easier for them to get access to your home"
And as for using a car alarm, Johnson says many people have become desensitized to the sound, and since some alarms go off at the slightest touch you may not even look outside when your hear one. Gail Delaughter KUHF News.