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In an effort to curb what is being described as a “drastic increase” in vehicle break-ins, police are employing a handful of tactics to try and catch the culprits. Business groups have been put on notice to have store owners report anything suspicious, cooperative law enforcement agencies have been contacted and local trouble spots are seeing an increase in patrols, according to investigators.

“There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what they’re stealing, except that it’s high-end electronics,” Sgt. Mike Keating said.

Keating, who heads the detective division in Forest Park, is handling the investigation. In the last two to three weeks police have seen a dramatic up tick in the number of burglaries, said Keating, and the offenders are hitting cars all over town. During business hours cars parked in the retail plaza on Roosevelt Road have been burglarized, as have cars parked on the residential streets surrounding Madison Street. Other neighborhoods, seemingly at random, have also been hit.

A surveillance camera at Ultra Foods on Roosevelt Road captured footage of a suspected getaway car, but Keating said there may be more than one crew at work here.

Investigators have been given three different vehicle descriptions, including that of a van and a Ford Explorer. Authorities sent out an image of a third car, captured by the grocery store’s security camera, to business groups in town. Police asked that the media not publish the information in case the suspects learn that they’ve been spotted. According to Keating, there’s no reason to believe that the various culprits are working cooperatively.

“There seems to be a large increase in property crimes, and it’s my opinion that it has a lot to do with the economy,” Keating said.

It is often the case that in the buildup to the holiday season, police see a spike in various types of theft, he said.

In many of the recent thefts, the culprits have shattered a window to gain access to the car and take global positioning systems, stereos, radar detectors and other electronics. Investigators have recovered DNA evidence from blood droplets believed to have been left by a thief who cut themselves on broken glass. Forensic testing may help identify a suspect, particularly if the DNA matches that of any already on file with the state.

Motorists can reduce their risk of being burglarized by removing all electronics when parking their car, said Keating. Also important is the removal of ancillary items – such as power cords, mounting hardware and windshield suction cups – that might clue a thief to the presence of valuables.