By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Are you a thief’s best friend?
By Dave Emanuel

You just might be - even though you don’t know the thief, and he or she doesn’t know you. You “befriended” the thief because you provided opportunity, perhaps even an invitation, to enjoy something you own.

The thief decided you were his newest best friend when he observed your actions and saw that you had made it easy for him or her to steal your wallet, purse, a recent purchase or something else of considerable value. 

Some thefts are random acts, but many are planned, based on prior knowledge of a person’s activities and the items that are “available”. One of the newer techniques thieves are using to accept opportunities and invitations to steal incorporates enhanced communications— two or more thieves work together, with one serving as a lookout while the other (or others) does the breaking, entering and stealing. This approach is particularly popular in shopping areas, especially during the months before Christmas.

To pull a heist, thieves stake out a parking lot and focus on shoppers leaving a store with their purchases. After identifying a “target”, they follow the person to his or her next stop. Then one thief follows the shopper into a store, where he calls his accomplices, tells them the coast is clear and then waits and watches. When target heads towards the exit, the “inside man” tells the thief outside (by either a phone call or text message) to clear out. By the time the shopper reaches his or her car, the thief is gone and so is whatever was inside the vehicle.

The inside man/outside man tactic is also used in other scenarios. As an example, there have been numerous vehicle break-ins recently, in which items that weren’t visible were taken. In one, a woman parked her vehicle near the entrance to a health club. She had hidden her purse beneath a jacket before she left the house, so when she got to the health club, she simply exited the vehicle and walked to the entrance. Shortly thereafter, her car alarm went off and she found a thief had broken a window and stolen her purse.

Although the facts behind this theft aren’t known, it is entirely possible that someone working around her house knew where she was going and may have seen her hide her purse in her vehicle. He could have called an accomplice who would then be in the parking lot before she arrived. The thief would know the make and model of the vehicle she was driving and would also know she would be at the health club for quite some time.

It’s also entirely possible that the thief was just scouting the health club parking lot, and noticed a woman leaving her vehicle and walking to the health club without a purse. Health club parking lots seem to be a paradise for thieves, largely because they are a target-rich environment. That’s easy to see if you consider-

-Most people spend between 30 and 90 minutes inside a health club or gym

-Many people stop to work out on their way home from work. There’s a good chance that many people leave a lap top computer, tablet or other electronic device in their vehicle.  

-Women usually carry purses- if a woman gets out of her vehicle and isn’t carrying a purse, odds are she left it in her vehicle

-Even though someone is carrying a gym bag, he or she may have left a wallet or purse in their vehicle  

Obviously, some of these considerations aren’t limited to health club parking lots, but regardless of where you park, leaving anything of value in a vehicle is unwise. However, it’s not always practical or possible to avoid doing so. If you have to leave a wallet, purse or other item of value in your vehicle, make sure it’s out of view, and make sure you take the necessary steps to do so long BEFORE you arrive at your destination.

Some theft prevention tips-

-Don’t throw a coat or jacket over something to hide it from view. That’s a pretty strong indication that it’s covering something worth stealing.

-Before you exit your vehicle, look around for suspicious activity.

- If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, stay in the vehicle and drive off.

-After you exit your vehicle, look around for suspicious activity. 

- Be aware of the vehicle behind you. If it seems to be following you, it’s probably not, but there’s always a chance, so be aware.

- Get in the habit of locking your car- even if it’s in your driveway. 

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, be aware of your surroundings. 

Dave Emanuel is Vice President of Random Technologies, a manufacturing company in Loganville, and a Snellville City Councilman. To read more from Dave Emanuel visit http://www.cuttothe-chase.net