LANE COUNTY, Ore. (KMTR) -- Local police departments are warning drivers of a possible property crime spike during the Memorial Day holiday. Eugene police told NewsSource 16 they've recorded more than 70 incidents within a four-week time period in three areas - specifically the Barger and Echo Hollow area, Royal Avenue at Highway 99 and near the Whiteaker District - with a majority of them car break-ins.
Thieves are using different techniques to get away with others' belongings. Sergeant Lisa Barrong with the Eugene Police Department said a lot of criminals seem to be stealing cars just to drive them a few blocks, where they empty the items out. Particularly within these concentrated areas and across Eugene in general, they are looking at parking lots near sporting events.
"Criminals take advantage of that target opportunity; they kind of know they have a safe period of time that people are going to be away from their car[s], so they go and hit these parking lots or these sports fields where people are leaving things in their cars," said Sergeant Barrong. "It keeps coming back to that."
Barrong said what isn't valuable to one person is to another - including electronics and high-value items. A lot of perpetrators are now using a technique called lock-punching, which eliminates the noise of a breaking window. Unfortunately, Lock-punching is not preventable, according to police.
"As we lead into Memorial Day weekend, we really need to keep that in mind," said Sergeant Barrong.
She suggests simply locking your car and not leaving anything at all inside, especially anything visible from outside the vehicle. She also recommends not putting anything in the trunk because robbers, like any driver, know there is a latch or button inside the car to open the trunck.
In Springfield, Seargent John Umenhofer told NewsSource 16 that they, too, have seen a spike in car break-ins, specifically in the Gateway Mall area. Umenhofer said the department recently made two arrests that recovered dozens of stolen items. Loren Riddle, 26, and Ellen Fisk, 43, were arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, criminal mischief and possession of meth after multiple people called to report suspicious people.
Police responded to Gateway Mall first where there was a report of an unauthorized use of a vehicle involving a 1990 Toyota Camry. Police found the vehicle a few blocks away. While they were processing the vehicle, another person called from a nearby apartment reporting a male had been seen trying to break into vehicles before leaving in an SUV. The license plate on the SUV matched a vehicle reported stolen earlier in the day from Lane Community College.
When officers arrived, they saw the SUV moving through the Gateway Mall parking lot. The vehicle was stopped and both suspects were arrested. Police said a large amount of property recovered was from other vehicles. Springfield Police is continuing to investigate.
According to Sergeant Umenhofer, many of these incidents involve repeat offenders recently released from jail. Such is the case with Fisk and Riddle.
"What we tend to see, as we did in this case, is they'll get a stolen car and then they'll drive around and break into twenty vehicles. And then they'll get another stolen car and break into another twenty vehicles," he said. "And it's normally when these people get out of jail."
Umenhofer stressed criminals are looking most for the obvious, particularly shopping bags or purses. While Springfield Police said this kind of crime is blanketing the city, a lot of crime tends to happen in densely populated areas where criminals can hit a large number of cars in a short period of time. He also said those criminals tend to blend in with a crowd.