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As the community continues to be plagued by auto burglaries, the Artesia Police Department is doing what it can to encourage citizens to protect their personal property as officers work to track down those responsible for the crimes.

Between Saturday, Sept. 19, and Wednesday, Sept. 23, a total of 23 auto burglaries were reported in Artesia. The highest volume of reports – 10 – came Sunday morning, Sept. 20, likely the result of an organized overnight spree.

Areas hit hardest included the 800 to 1700 blocks of 15th Street and the 1400 to 1800 blocks of Clayton, Runyan and Sears avenues.

Between 9:41 and 10:31 a.m. Sept. 20, the APD received four reports in the 1200 block of 15th Street alone. Auto burglaries also occurred in the 1300 block of First Street, the 1600 and 1900 blocks of Bullock and Booker avenues respectively, and the 1600 and 1700 blocks of 21st and 17th streets.

Five more reports were made Monday, Sept. 21, and four between Sept. 22 and 23. Two vehicles were also reported stolen Sept. 20 and 22 from 1000 S. Sixth St. and Guy Chevrolet.

Cmdr. Lindell Smith with the APD says officers have become aware of a particular trend among several of the auto burglaries: Thieves taking paperwork, such as registration and insurance cards.

“The purpose of taking these items can be several fold,” Smith said. “First, they can be used to steal identities; second, they can be used to create fake selling points for cars on social media websites to defraud people of money; and third, they can be used to obtain small-yield, high-interest vehicle title loans.”

As such, along with valuables such as cell phones and wallets, the APD is also now suggesting citizens remove the paperwork from their vehicles in the evening and consider placing them in a wallet or purse so that they will not be forgotten when driving the next day.

Officers are still finding the bulk of the auto burglaries occur on unlocked vehicles and urge citizens not to leave their automobiles vulnerable at night.

“The situation of burglaries on unlocked vehicles has become complicated,” said Smith. “We have no direct or distinct indication that the conversion of registrations and insurance cards is happening here, but the fact remains that citizens’ property is being stolen out of their cars.

“We would like to do everything possible to make sure citizens have resources to protect their own property.”

Police Chief Don Raley stated at last week’s meeting of the Artesia City Council that there is a misconception among some that locking doors only means thieves will damage the vehicle to gain entry. Raley said home security video the APD has obtained has shown prospective thieves walking up to a car door and, upon finding it locked, walking away.

“If they’re locked, they have to break a window, they have to do something that makes noise,” Raley told the council. “They’re not even shutting the car doors because shutting the car doors makes noise.

“The secret to their success is making the least amount of noise possible, so whatever you can do to make your vehicles a little harder to get into would sure help us out.”

Raley assured the council the APD is doing all it can to curb the high number of auto burglaries.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” he said.