Prairie Village police use DNA, surveillance footage to fight spike in car break-ins

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Police in Prairie Village said officers continue to see a “tremendous spike” in car break-ins throughout the summer. Ninety-nine percent of the cases involve unlocked cars.

The department responded to three break-ins during May. The number jumped to 17 in June. July's final numbers aren't tallied yet, but police expect it to be higher. 

Throughout the summer, police have arrested four people on suspicion of breaking into cars.

Captain Byron Roberson, said video surveillance helped police catch suspects in one case. This spring the police department launched the Village Video Cooperative. The program gives police better access to private surveillance cameras around town.

That access helped police identify and arrest two suspects in one incident. 

Roberson added Prairie Village and Johnson County are bad places to commit a car break-in. Every officer in Prairie Village is trained to collect DNA from crime scenes. While some larger departments wouldn’t run DNA tests on a car break-in, Prairie Village sends samples to the Johnson County crime lab in every case, increasing the likelihood of catching a suspect.

Car break-ins can lead to more serious and dangerous crimes. Twice this summer, an auto burglary has turned into a shooting investigation for Prairie Village police.

In one case, a suspected burglar shot a man who tried to stop him from breaking into the victim's car. During the other incident, a car-owner fired a warning shot at a suspected burglar when he found someone breaking into a car.

Police said if car owners make it harder for thieves to steal vehicles, they won’t come to Prairie Village, and it's less likely that a car break-in would escalate into something more dangerous.

"We would rather just get our citizens to help us out, reduce these burglaries before they happen so we don't have to put anybody in jeopardy," Roberson said.

The police department has increased patrols during the afternoon and overnight hours, but officers said they need your help preventing future break-ins. They said the best thing you can do is lock your door and remove valuables from your car. 

"Thieves don't try to work hard. They try to find opportunities that are easy. Unlocked cars are easy and those are the ones they're targeting," Roberson explained.

The captain said don’t reward the criminal’s gamble by leaving valuable items in your car. He said thieves are rolling the dice, risking prison time if they’re caught. Most often burglars get loose change or clothing, but every once in a while they get a purse or a laptop. Roberson said that’s what keeps them coming back.

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