Be sure to lock your car doors.
The Hobbs Police Department has alerted citizens to a recent uptick in auto burglaries and advised people to, “hide your things, lock your car, take your keys,” to protect against such types of theft. In recent weeks, Lea County Communication Authority dispatch logs showed multiple calls for auto burglaries throughout Hobbs neighborhoods. It’s a crime that showed a slight reduction last year from 2015 with 91 auto thefts compared to 108. In the last two to three weeks, Hobbs Police Chief Chris McCall said the department has “really seen an increase,” but does not have statistics available yet.
“In the summer months, those types of crimes tend to increase and we’ve definitely seen that pattern this summer,” McCall said. “We’ve really seen a pattern where someone will enter a neighborhood and look for opportunities, as in checking door handles on vehicles — anything they find unlocked and going through those vehicles. We’ve seen several of those over the last couple of weeks where we have multiple vehicle burglaries in one neighborhood.”
Two recent examples occurred last weekend on June 24 and 25, according to Hobbs police incident reports.
On June 24, a Hobbs resident contacted police about an auto burglary on South 9th Street and reported two wallets containing personal documents and cash missing. The next day, several residents reported auto burglaries on East Snyder Street and North McKinley with many items missing, including documents, cash and jewelry from their vehicles.
“Auto burglary is the most the most common (crime) that we see an increase in, along with that, other property crimes due to the mere fact that the weather’s nicer and there’s more people out and moving around on foot,” McCall said.
To avoid auto theft, McCall recommended for citizens to lock their vehicles, in addition to taking their belongings and valuables inside. If that’s not possible, he advised people to make sure the items are out of plain view. In response to burglaries, HPD has utilized “different patrol tactics” in neighborhoods over a time span to see if it can reduce or eliminate the issue. McCall also noted police have made arrests due to citizens reporting suspicious activity.
“We encourage anybody that sees suspicious activity in their neighborhood or anywhere they may be — if they think something doesn’t look right — call the police department and we will come out and check on whatever that activity is and hopefully prevent some crimes,” he said.
Although Hobbs has seen an auto burglary spike, other Lea County communities report few recent incidents. Loving-ton experienced a “wave” of auto burglaries in April and May, according to LPD public information officer Det. Sgt. David Miranda.
“In the last three weeks, it’s kind of calmed down,” he said. “We did arrest an individual about a month ago who was responsible for a few and he’s still in jail.”
Meanwhile, Jal and Eunice are a different story. Jal Police Chief Mauricio Valeriano said Jal hasn’t seen such an increase, noting there’s been one for traffic citations and traffic related issues, while as of Friday, Eunice police have gotten only five auto theft reports all year.
“We’ve only had one (auto theft) in the last month and we’ve only got 13 reported larcenies to date for the year,” Eunice Police Chief Jimmie Jones said. “That’s the lowest rate that we’ve had in about 15 years.”
Jones recalled a rash of auto burglaries around May and June 2016, where it “skyrocketed” to a 10-year high.
“We had a couple nights last year where we got hit with them,” he said. “We would get five or six in a night and right now we’re sitting at that number for the entire year.”
Chief Deputy Tony Bud-row, of the Lea County Sheriff’s Office, also reported no increase, but like McCall, he emphasized the need to lock your vehicles.
“It’s always best to try keep your vehicles locked up and your valuable items out of sight,” Budrow said.