AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's the most wonderful time of the year- to be a thief. Every year in November and December, the Austin police department reports an increase in vehicle burglaries. Operation Santa's Helpers is working to get those numbers down.
"What the community is going to see is basically a lot of police officers around- and what they're not going to see is a lot of plain clothes officers around," said APD Commander Jason Dusterhoft. "We've caught several people in the act, several people checking car doors and then we'll watch them with the spotters and then we'll arrest them if we see them taking stuff out of the car."
Officers are targeting the two areas where they typically see the most car burglaries in November and December- Southpark Meadows and Barton Creek Mall. The department put up electronic signs outside of both shopping centers to remind people to protect their belongings.
"That's just a good reminder," said Dusterhoft. "We're out there for the people that do forget because we're going to find the people that are doing these things and we're going to arrest them."
This is the fourth year the department has done Operation Santa's Helpers and it appears to be making an impact. The number of vehicle burglaries has dropped dramatically at both locations since 2009.
"I thinks its exactly because of what we're doing because if you look at the time we started this four years ago, we had some really high numbers here," said Dusterhoft.
Officers also check cars for valuables left in plain sight, unlocked doors and even windows left rolled down. They are handing out flyers to remind people to lock their cars and hide or take their valuables.
They also encourage people to park in well-lit areas because more than half of all vehicle thefts happen at night. Shoppers should stay alert and be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying a large amount of cash or credit cards.
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