Citizens on patrol

December 17, 2008 3:58:48 PM PST
In response to a rise in car burglaries, Sugar Land police have been recruiting civilians to try and curtail the incidence of vehicle break-ins. The program is giving shoppers a much-needed warning during the holiday season. The volunteers are hoping to find where people are most vulnerable before criminals take advantage.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The volunteers patrol their beat in a marked car, checking parking lots outside many Sugar Land stores and fitness centers. Time and again, volunteers find radar detectors, GPS devices, purses and even wallets left on the front seat in plain view.

"Maybe someone will break in, maybe they won't, but why give them the opportunity?" says volunteer Phillip Leong.

On vehicles where they find valuables showing, Leong and other volunteers leave a brochure noting the items left out in the open.

Sugar Land Police Officer Marty Morales says the city typically sees a 20 percent increase in vehicle burglaries throughout the holiday season. Morales says reminding people not to leave valuables within view can go a long way in decreasing that number while also freeing up officers to handle more serious incidents. So far, the program appears to be working.

"I definitely know there is a decrease," says Morales.

We worked on this story with the help of a Houston Community Newspaper, the Sugar Land Sun.

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