Eugene, OR

Car Break-Ins Up in the South Hills and Around Eugene, and What You Can Do About It

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress
Photo by Tristan Billet on Unsplash

A rash of ransacking vehicle breakins means be more careful. Here's how.

It's an unfortunate side effect of a tough economy, too many staying at home under quarantine and leaving our cars outside and easy access, but it was bound to happen.

I live in the Churchill neighborhood of Eugene, a place of sweet rolling hills, big tall trees and some very pretty homes. Before moving here I lived in a suburb of Lakewood,Colorado in a zip code where theft was rare. One reason I loved living there was that on too many occasions to count, I would back out of my garage and forget to close the door, then drive off. That left thousands of dollars' worth of bikes, kayaks and everything inside the house available. Yet for fourteen years, nothing ever happened, even when I mistakenly left a bike outside.

You can't do that here in Eugene. As much as I love my new city, and I most certainly do, petty theft is a real issue. Before moving here I did my due diligence, and knew beforehand that property theft, most particularly of bicycles, was an issue. Our property crime rate is one of the highest in the country per capita:

But as I checked with my real estate agent and the police, much of it is property theft.

That, and that West 11th, which is a busy part of the city, a long line of big box stores and shopping malls along the road that is the business part of 126 West to Florence on the coast, is among the worst of those areas. Folks bike to Planet Fitness but don't put a lock on their bikes might end up having a long walk home.

West 11th is just a few miles from my neighborhood, which is both convenient and inconvenient. My Planet Fitness and most of my shopping are along that road. Eugene is bike central, which also means that far too many people find their kids' or their own bike, left casually outside for even a moment, swapped out for a crap model while theirs gets pedaled off to get peddled off for cash. The Eugene Police Department has broken up multiple bike theft rings; it's big business, because bikes are such a big part of life here.

My sports chiropractor reported this very thing with one of his son's bikes. Kids often don't consider such issues. The kid was in a hurry to get lunch, and a thief ate his lunch by swapping his bike out for a rusty road warrior. That's an expensive mistake, for Kevin had purchased good mountain bikes for his kids. You only let it happen once.

Back a few months ago when spring was just starting, Spencer's Butte, which is a very popular climb just south of town, was experiencing a raised rash of break-ins. Every time I drove out for a hike I saw broken glass on the ground, proof that someone else had been burgled. I quit going, or if I did go, I stripped the inside of my car of all valuables, and left nothing on the seats. While this may seem like an obvious precaution, it isn't to many who leave their computers or phones in full view.

The Somerset Hills III Homeowner's Association, which is the group that my neighbors and I pay to help us maintain the beauty and safety of our common areas, sent out an email informing us that there has been a new rash of breakins of cars in the area.

While most of us know our immediate neighbors, it's still a dark place at night, as we don't have street lamps. Here in Eugene, property theft just more common than elsewhere.

This past year under quarantine, many of us either stopped driving completely or reduced our driving, so that our cars have been idled. If this is outside, then you and I have to take more precautions.

That said, on my street, there are quite a few folks whose garages are clearly too full to accommmodate their vehicles. I can't speak for anyone else but a messy garage that is turned into an impromptu storage facility isn't just an inconvenience for the homeowner. It means that our vehicles have to sit on the streets, and that makes them easy targets for casual thieves, as is the case right now.

The best ways to prevent breakins are obvious and common sense, but they are ignored. Here they are (please note, much of this is adapted from advice from the Eugene Police Department):

1. If you have a garage, use it. That takes the temptation out of sight. If nothing else motivates you to finally get that garage in order, this might be a good time to do it. Clean up, clean out, donate, make room. Get your vehicle off the road.

2. Always lock your car. Always.

3. If you don't currently have one, install a car alarm. Many insurance companies offer a rate discount for car alarms.

4. NEVER leave anything of value in sight. If I have to leave things in my car, there's a moving blanket over them. Otherwise the seats are clear. Some people recommend opening the glove compartment to show there's nothing in it. I do that at the trailheads.

5. Get to know your neighbors and work with them. That means you all keep an eye out. While you can't do this at night, you can at least establish a collective watch which serves everyone, especially if you work different shifts.

6. If there is a light, leave your car under a streetlamp. Or, if possible, install one, the kind that throws a brilliant light on your car, and is high enough off the ground to be difficult to break. Light tends to discourage. You can install a camera, too, if that makes sense, but most of these other precautions are a lot cheaper, and a camera is only useful after the theft happens, and only sometimes.

The perfect storm of quarantine, skyrocketing home prices, folks living the van life (sometimes not by choice, and all too often in their own cars) and the easy trust that so many of us older folks want badly to be able to offer our fellow man can lead to losses. If your van is indeed your home and that gets broken into because of less thoughtful-security that could be devastating. My social media guy JC and his fiance have lived in their RV for several years, and a break-in for them could end his career. So now he has a big dog with a bark the size of Chicago and a very intimidating presence as well as a good alarm system.

To that, I don't leave my car in the driveway. Don't leave valuables in my car. Have a car with solid locks and an alarm system, and park under lights when I shop at night. Those are all common sense precautions, and they will likely slow down a common thief even in these most uncommon times.

Basic precautions can go a long way to help, and communicating with your neighbors, your home owners association about unfamiliar cars and activites as well as the police department can all help.

That way we can all enjoy Eugene more safely and with more confidence.
Photo by Casey Olsen on Unsplash

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Eugene, OR

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