Winter Haven police fight car burglaries with gift cards

Gift cards for locked cars - police are giving gift cards to people who lock their cars.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WTSP) -- It's that time of year again. Along with the holidays come the grinches, trying to steal your cheer.

Winter Haven police are going to reward drivers with gift cards when they find vehicles that are locked and the interior clear of items that might attract a burglar.

Starting Thursday and running through Dec. 24, officers will give residents a blue card with information to enter a drawing for a $25 VISA gift card as thanks for being proactive against burglaries. A blue card will be left on the vehicles, and the owner will then need to call the number on the card to be eligible for the gift card. The owner simply needs to call the number on the card and leave a call back number. The department will pick five winners each week and reach out to them.

A similar campaign in 2014 reduced vehicle burglaries 17 percent in six weeks. The department did not run the campaign in 2015.

Officers want to remind residents that the holiday season is prime time for vehicle burglars to target cars and trucks by what they see inside.

Locking doors is a primary defense, but keeping valuables out of sight is another.

The department has already recorded 32 vehicle burglaries during October and first week of November: 13 in unlocked and 19 locked with the windows smashed. Of the 32 incidents, 28 had items inside of the vehicle that were visible from the outside.

"Locking a car is no longer a deterrent," said Chief Charlie Bird. "It takes just a matter of seconds for someone to smash the window and grab what is in reach."

Officers will also confirm that vehicle is not associated with any warrants or criminal history.

The department will spend a total of $750 on the program. That money comes from forfeiture funds, which is seized property or cash that was used to support the commission of a felonious act.


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