KELLER — Keller city officials recently released information about vehicle burglaries at sporting locations and parks and are asking residents to take precautions to protect themselves.Police believe members of an organized criminal group known as the "Felony Lane Gang” are connected to car burglaries throughout the county and are also responsible for multiple vehicle burglaries that occurred June 8 at The Keller Pointe.“They would go somewhere else if people would lock up their stuff ... They’re going to go where it’s easy,” Keller police Lt. Brenda Slovak said. “I’ve been told by burglars they come to Southlake, Colleyville and Keller because ‘there is good stuff.’”This group targets women’s purses in vehicles at athletic sites such as baseball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts and gymnastic centers, police said.Other common targets include daycare centers, fitness centers, dog parks, public parks, funeral homes and post offices.In November, Keller officers arrested two Florida residents who were confirmed members of the gang.On June 24, several North Texas police agencies reported vehicle burglaries that targeted purses at sporting locations and parks.The offenses started in Dallas but shortly afterward, a victim reported that the suspects attempted withdrawals at a Keller bank.Many members of the Felony Lane Gang have been arrested by North Texas agencies within the past month.Slovak said just placing a purse or backpack underneath the car seat or trunk doesn’t work because the thieves are watching.Slovak said surveillance video shows police just how quickly the thieves work.“We watched them on the Keller Pointe camera,” she said. “It was probably less than five seconds. He broke it, reached in, took it and he was gone.”Even garage burglaries would be far fewer if people would just close their garage doors, Slovak said.Catching the gang members has been a challenge.“The problem with these guys, they are changing vehicles,” she said. “They are renting them and changing them out.”Mark Hafner, Keller police chief and director of public safety, said thefts from cars continue to be the crime that is committed most frequently in Keller.“It's a frustrating crime for us because it is one that can be prevented by just a small effort on the part of our citizens and visitors,” Hafner said. “It's very simple, don't leave valuables in your parked car.”Hafner said he believes this type of crime can be eliminated in Keller if people would take the extra time to remove valuables from their cars.“We have made several arrests of suspects for breaking into cars but it seems as fast as we put them in jail we have a crop of new suspects taking advantage of our citizens,” he said. “We can't count on arrests to solve this problem. We need people to be proactive and harden the targets.”To help prevent becoming a victim, Keller police offer the following proactive tips: 1. Stow your stuff before arrivalExperienced thieves often stake out parking lots to watch for people putting items in their trunk. Help prevent car break-ins by putting valuables, like laptops, messenger bags and electronic devices, into your trunk before you get to the parking lot. 2. Don’t make it easyKeep windows and sunroofs closed and doors locked. Almost a fourth of thefts from vehicles are from unlocked cars. 3. Activate your vehicle’s alarmDon’t have one? Factory-installed anti-theft systems are best, but a professionally installed alarm can discourage a car break-in thief who likes to work in silence. 4. Hide your valuablesMany smash-and-grab thieves act on impulse. So keep your stuff out of sight, either with you or in a locked trunk. Don’t count on the glove box; thieves know to look there and they’re easy to break into.5. Stash the evidence, tooAfter you’ve put your stuff in the trunk, don’t forget such telltale evidence as power plugs, MP3 adapters and navigation system windshield suction-cup mounts. Report any suspicious activity to NETCOM dispatch by calling 9-1-1 in an emergency or 817-743-4522.
Susan McFarland, 817-390-7547 Twitter: @susanmcfarland1