Two common car items that open your home to thieves

The holiday shopping season is right around the corner, and police have a warning for folks driving to the malls and other shopping centers.

When you are away from home shopping or running errands, there is an increased chance burglars could be heading to your house to clean you out.

And the reason is because of what is in your vehicle.

Two things can be found in most cars: a garage door opener and a vehicle registration.

Usually, the garage door opener is on the driver's side visor and the car's registration, which includes your address, is in the glove box. They are two seemingly unrelated items on separate sides of the car. But when you put them together, they can become very dangerous in the hands of a thief.

“If your car gets broken into, they're usually looking for something to steal; maybe they found something, maybe they don't,” said Lt. Patrick Hechlinski of the SBPD Crime Prevention Unit. “But they can always go and look and see if you have your garage door opener on your visor. If it's there, it's very easy to take it. It's also very easy to grab the vehicle's registration that you leave in the glove compartment. And then they have a means of knowing you're at the mall or you're at the store. And if they have a means of transportation, they could quite conceivably end up at your house, hit that garage door button and let themselves inside because, typically, a wide variety of folks, as a matter of habit do not lock that door going from the garage into the home.”

And people with a detached garage are not immune to break-ins, especially if you park your car on the street.

“If you're home sleeping and someone breaks into your car in the driveway or a car that's parked back in the alleyway, maybe you have a detached garage, they get that garage door opener, they hit the button, they could open the door, let themselves in and take the lawnmower or have access to another vehicle that maybe inside and rummage through that looking for valuables,” said Hechlinski.

So it's pretty simple.

Don't ever leave your garage door opener in your car, unless it is in your locked garage.

“Put it in your pocket, putting in your purse and taking it with you,” Hechlinski said. “If you're parked outside at your home at night, take it inside the house with you.”

And he also says you may want to consider an upgrade, so even if you forget, your garage door opener will be with you when you leave your vehicle.

“A lot of the garage door openers, especially the newer ones, you can always buy the replacement ones that attach to your key chain,” said Hechlinski. “And it's just a simple matter of reprogramming it to match the receiver in your house. So, if you can get rid of the one that clips on to your visor and get one that clips on to your key chains, you can keep that one with you and you don't have to run into that issue.”

And thieves can get to your house quickly.

If they have a smart phone, they can simply use the GPS app, plug in your address and get turn-by-turn directions.

And what if your car has GPS?
Just like your garage door opener, it shouldn't be left in the car.

Many people have "home" programmed into their GPS. This makes it easy for the thief to use it to find your house by simply hitting the home button.

And after ransacking your house, they'll keep the GPS from your car.

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