Forest preserve visitors warned about car break-ins
Visitors to forest preserves in Lake County and elsewhere are being reminded to use common sense and not become targets for car thieves.
"There's not a lot of crime in the forest preserves but you have to protect yourself from the easy crimes," said John Tannahill, director or public safety for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
Using spring-loaded punches or other tools, a thief can break the window of a vehicle and make off with contents in plain view in less than 30 seconds, Tannahill said.
Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, forest preserves have gotten more use already than they might in a normal year, Tannahill said. Since March, there have been about 30 break-ins to vehicles throughout the system, he added.
"Car burglaries are crimes of opportunity and they are up all over the place where people congregate. It's not just the forest preserves," he said.
Facilities have been closed, but the preserves and trails have remained open, are quite busy and can present easy targets for thieves.
"People come to enjoy the forest preserves but they still have to be cognizant there may be bad people watching," Tannahill said.
The district recently put out a detailed safety alert on how visitors can protect themselves from vehicle break-ins, and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County posted a similar caution Tuesday on its Facebook page.
Visitors should lock the doors and leave valuables at home, take them with you or put them in the trunk, Tannahill said, rather than leaving them exposed for easy removal.
Tannahill says he often sees the mistakes firsthand in his travels.
"Inevitably, I'll see cars with wallets in the console, purses on the seat or computer bags in the back," he said.
Authorities also suggest watching for people who appear to stay in one spot for a long time or walk between vehicles for no reason.