Auto theft workshop offers tips

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Maxine Ware, a longtime Austin resident, says her car was almost stolen this past summer. That’s why Ware, the president of the 800 and 900 BlockClub on Latrobe Ave, wants more West Siders to remember auto theft is a problem, too.

“It seems like so many people are concerned with other crimes in Austin, and auto theft is not that big of a worry,” she said.

That’s why the 25th police district hosted an auto theft prevention workshop last weekend at its headquarters at 5555 W. Grand Ave.

“Austin leaders need more workshops, so people would know how to prevent getting their cars stolen,” Ware said. “If leaders in Austin and other Chicago neighborhoods begin to spread the word on this, more people in Austin will become aware and be more cautious about their cars.”

During Saturday’s workshop, residents heard from convicted auto thieves who explained how they stole cars. One of the five who shared their “tips” explained how he would stake out gas stations in hopes that residents would leave their their cars attended.

“Leaving keys in the ignition often comes from moving too fast and not thinking,” said Ware. “I’ve never done this but I’m sure several people living in Austin are guilty of this simple mistake and usually are victims of car theft.”

Sgt. Timothy Weiglein of the 25th District said Chicago has seen auto thefts increase.

“We want to lower that number,” he said. “Our best defense against this issue is to make our residents aware of it and educate them on prevention tactics.”

Weiglein said he wishes more people had attended Saturday’s workshop; about 40 people came for the four-hour session, which included lunch and a free car club. He said turnout at an earlier workshop on burglary had been higher.

Still, Cynthia Flores, a 25th District CAPS officer, said, “It’s good to bring the community together where there is a great concern. Auto theft is crucial, and people need to be aware of ways to prevent it in our local neighborhoods.”

Weiglein said the 25th District hopes  to organize and identify theft workshop next.

Here are some tips on how to avoid auto theft:

1. Never leave your car keys in the ignition, especially at quick-stop locations like gas stations and stores.

2. Lock all doors to your vehicle, and make sure the trunk and hood to your vehicle are secure.

3. Avoid leaving behind any valuables in your vehicle that can be visible to others.

4. When purchasing a car from someone that’s not a dealer, be sure to check the vehicle’s history on CARFAX to guarantee the tags and registration do not belong to a registered stolen vehicle.

5. Use car clubs to secure the steering wheel and/or alarm system.

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