Junction City has seen a 171% rise in thefts from motor vehicles between 2019 and this year, Junction City Police Department reported.
So far this year, Police Chief John Lamb said the department logged 144 occurrences of theft from motor vehicles in the city. In 2019, there were 55 thefts from motor vehicles at the same point in the year.
Lamb said the crime is categorized as a part one property crime, along with burglary, shoplifting and theft from a building. While the specific crime of theft from a motor vehicle increased, Lamb said the total number of crimes in the part one property crime category has gone down 3% since 2019.
Many of those who commit the crimes are from outside the city, Lamb said, as the major interstate attracts transient guests to the area.
“Since Junction City is directly along I-70, we have individuals who will come from larger cities such as Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita and victimize our community,” he said. “However, some live here that have committed these crimes more frequently this year, and the department has made several arrests recently.”
Lamb said the department suspects the people arrested committed a large number of the thefts from vehicles reported this year. He said November is on track to have less than half the number of thefts from vehicles compared to last month.
Of the vehicles that fell victim to thefts, 95% were left unlocked, police reported. Lamb said the department advises the community to lock their doors when they are not in them, even if they are running shorts errands outside their vehicles, such as buying an item from a gas station.
“It takes little to no time for an individual to check if your car is locked or not,” he said. “If your car is locked it takes physical effort to gain access to a vehicle to steal valuables and increases the amount of time needed to carry out this type of crime. However, if your car is left unlocked an individual merely has to open your door, grab whatever they find and walk away.”
The department also recommends that people take valuable items out of their cars and ensure they hide anything of value, as items like phones, wallets and purses are appealing to thieves who would try to sell the items.
Lamb said JCPD officers are working with the crime analyst to identify crime patterns, series and trends and develop plans to increase patrol and awareness. He said their analysis shows that these thefts are occurring all over the community, but they are focusing on increasing patrol in areas with recent reports.
JCPD recently posted on their social media, reminding people to lock their vehicles and take out or hide their valuables from sight.