With an increasing number of electronic devices on board, car break-ins are on the rise

Don Conkey

Portable GPS systems, iPods, satellite radios, laptops. If you’ve got them, thieves want them. The number of car break-ins is rising, with thieves finding easy money in the high-tech gadgets drivers leave on their dashboards or passenger seats, often in unlocked cars.

In Quincy, the number of car break-ins nearly doubled in the three-year period between 2004 and last year, rising from 267 to 504.

Hingham reported 91 break-ins in the past year, and Cohasset has had 20 in the past few weeks alone.

In Pembroke, a teenager this week was charged with 24 counts of breaking into cars.

“They’ll take anything that they can carry and walk away with,” Hingham police Sgt. Sean Cavanaugh said. “Any time they see money in there, it will go.”

Small, portable electronics are the main targets, police say, but thieves are also grabbing wallets, cameras, even loose change, Pembroke police Detective Ted Cain said

Police said the thieves are usually teens who’ll target entire neighborhoods or parking lots, going from car to car in search of loot and unlocked doors.

Cain and other police officers said car owners could do much to protect their belongings by simply locking car doors.

“Most of our car breaks are through unlocked doors. People are leaving the doors unlocked, with all of that valuable equipment inside,” Quincy police Capt. John Dougan said.

Car alarms also come into play, police said.

It was the noise of an early morning car alarm in Cohasset this week that led to the arrest of three teens for allegedly breaking into a car. Police are investigating whether they are linked to 19 other car breaks in the past few weeks.

“The car alarm was very instrumental in us bringing a quick resolution to this criminal activity,” Police Chief James Hussey said. “What it comes down to is that it’s the noise that gets someone’s attention to call police.”

He said car break-ins often go undiscovered until hours after they occurred.

Police said car owners are making a mistake if they leave valuables within view.

“Most of the items that are stolen – GPS, Sirius radios, iPods – can fit in your hand. Take them out of the car and into the house, or wherever you’re going,” Dougan said.

Don Conkey may be reached at