CRESTVIEW — There were approximately 790 car burglaries reported to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office in 2017.
Approximately 67 of those occurred in Baker, Crestview, Holt, Laurel Hill, Holt and Milligan, according to information available from the sheriff's office.
The Crestview Police Department handled a total of 163 unlocked vehicle burglaries from May 2017 to May 2018, and officers hope to prevent an increase in such thefts this summer by reminding people to not only lock their vehicles, but to take any valuables with them to prevent theft.
"A rash of the vehicle burglaries occurred over the summer, when youths with too much free time on their hands were recruited by older people into car burglary rings," CPD Public Information Officer Brian Hughes stated.
A further concern is that, of the 23 of the firearms car burglars stole in that time period, two were used in the commission of a crime.
"In one instance — part of a rash of more than 10 overnight burglaries that occurred June 22-23, 2017 in two neighborhoods — a vehicle owner, who surprised the thieves was shot at with his own gun. In another burglary, a gun stolen from an unlocked vehicle was used by youths to shoot another child who was waiting for his school bus," Hughes stated.
Hughes reiterated that the easiest way for people to deter theft is to remove or hide valuables and then lock their vehicles, because most thieves are looking for an easy entry target.
"This is not just a Crestview problem. Our colleagues in neighboring cities' police agencies and the sheriff's offices in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties all face the same challenge of people just not locking their vehicles," he said.