A SPATE of break-ins have seen cars targeted in quiet beauty spots in the South Downs and Goodwood areas.
Police are urging people to take care and not to leave any valuables in their car at all.
People come from far and wide to park in rural areas and walk in the West Sussex countryside, however thieves appear to be taking this as an opportunity to target isolated vehicles with no one around.
One man whose car was targeted said it was akin to having his home broken into.
Chichester Police are seeking to make people aware of the dangers of leaving valuables in their car and raise awareness of the perils.
“Our message is to always remove your valuables. When planning your journey spend an extra moment to think about whether you need to take certain items with you,” said a spokeswoman.
“If you know the route, do you need your sat nav? If you are going for a walk, do you need your handbag?
“Simply hiding items under chairs or in boots isn’t enough. Thieves know where items are hidden and can often be watching from a distance.
“Report all suspcious vehicles or people to us immediately.”
So far in May this year, 30 vehicles have been broken into across the Chichester district, in comparison to 20 during the whole of May last year.
Sussex Police has confirmed a number of the cars targeted have been in beauty spots in the district.
Each month so far this year has seen an increase in car break-ins. The biggest was in February when the number rose by 64 per cent from 14 to 23.
Already in May, the numbers have increased by 50 per cent, from 20 to 30.
Twenty of the incidents alone happened over the previous bank holiday weekend between May and May 6.
SOME OF THE INCIDENTS
During the weekend of April 26 and 27, three cars were broken into in car parks
- The first theft was from a vehicle in Downs Road, West Stoke, which happened between 4pm and 5.30pm on Saturday, April 26.
The silver Toyota Previa had the rear windscreen smashed and a leather backpack and a Barbour rain hat was stolen.
- The second theft occurred when a vehicle was left unattended at a car park in Goodwood on Saturday, April 26. The blue Ford Focus had a window smashed and a handbag stolen from under the seat.
- The third theft happened on Sunday, April 27. The blue Nissan Micra was parked at Wildhams Wood, Stoughton, and between 10.45am and 11.30am access was gained to the boot and a black leather handbag was stolen.
Between May 3 and May 6, vehicles parked in beauty spot car parks in the following locations were targeted: Cocking, South Harting, West Stoke, East Lavant, East Dean, Petworth, Graffham, Chilgrove, Duncton.
Chichester Police have recognised the rise in vehicle break-ins. In March, they launched Operation Mini, which specifically targets criminals who are breaking into vehicles.
Officers have been deployed across the district, offering crime prevention advice to members of the public and stopping any suspicious persons or vehicles.
PC Jason Stanley, from Chichester neighbourhood policing team, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to remind people that they should remove any valuables from their vehicle when they exit and take them with them, even if you are only away from your vehicle for a short time.
“We have had a number of offences across the district which would suggest that offenders have watched victims place valuables in the boot of their car or under their seat and have then waited for the victim to leave before breaking in and stealing the items.
“If you see anything suspicious or have any concerns please contact police on 101.”
As reported in the Observer, 59-year-old Joe Divis, from Angmering, was parked near East Dean with his wife and daughter.
While they were walking, his Range Rover was broken into. Although they had not left valuables on view, this did not deter thieves who took his spectacles and his daughter’s coat.
A number of devices are available to help police forces to catch offenders. These can include security cameras recording the inside of the car, extra protection for windows, GPS trackers for the cars themselves and a remote devices that can alert the owner if their car has been broken into.
However, the police are unable to recommend such devices, as they could be blamed if the devices fail to stop a break in.
Mr Divis said last week he did not want the rise in crime to deter people from enjoying the beautiful West Sussex countryside.
He also said he wanted to know how to actively fight back against the thieves targeting vehicles.
“If we give up these guys are just going to regard us as open season,” he said.
There was £3,000-worth of damage caused when the windows were smashed, with the thief reaching in to open the glove box.
He has since received his car back after ten days being repaired. He paid an excess of £350.
He described it as a ‘lose-lose situation’ ever since returning to find the car smashed.