Wichita Falls car burglaries down

Wichita Falls_Wichita Falls Police say a program to cut down on car burglaries is working.  They say they even have enlisted the help of a former car burglar, and their efforts are paying off.  They say that from January to April of 2008 there were 428 car burglaries, but during that same period this year there were only 287 - a 33% drop.

Police say folks now are taking valuables such as GPS devices or checkbooks with them when they leave their car - and once they leave the vehicle, they are locking the doors.  Some Wichita Falls residents have learned those lessons the hard way.

A burglar assesses criminal opportunities quickly.  First, they check to see if a car is locked.  If it isn't, burglars look for items in plain view that are easy to steal.  Juanita Pendergrass had her CB radio stolen, and at the time she says it was worth about $250.  "They just decided they needed it worse than I did, and right there in broad daylight they took it," she said.  She says the experience taught her a valuable lesson that she has used for more than 20 years.  "Keep your doors locked even sitting at the house - you never know what's going to happen," she said.

It's the same lesson Wichita Falls Police have been trying to instill for the past two months.  Sergeant Joe Snyder says the department will try to keep the awareness program going.  "All materials were provided through federal grants, or funding, at the state level," he said.  He says if vehicle burglaries begin to pick up again, they'll modify the program.

Pendergrass says she's a believer - and she has a message:  "Don't leave your billfold and checkbook in there.  I've had several people reach in and pick them out, and that's hard on a person," she said.

Wichita Falls Police say they aren't letting up.  They say if they see a vehicle with its window rolled down or valuables lying out in the open, they will affix a magnet to the car window that reads: "Hide. Lock. Take."

Falls Police say more than half of car burglaries in Texas last year happened when drivers left their vehicles idling while unattended.