Crystal Clay and her family headed to Oliver Nature Park to take photos a few days before Christmas. Instead, they got a surprising picture of crime in Mansfield.
While a photographer snapped family portraits, a thief smashed the window of Clay’s rented Kia Rio and snatched her purse.
“We were never farther than the bridge,” said her mom, Cindy Mendez. “It happened right under our noses. She had pushed it under the back seat.”
Smash and grabs happen all year, said Mansfield police spokesman Thad Penkala, but they increase during the holidays.
“People leave stuff in their cars,” he said. “It’s an easy target. It takes less than 30 seconds (to break in).”
The side windows of cars are made of tempered glass, which can easily be broken or popped out with a screwdriver, Penkala said.
“They just push in, it’s not real noisy,” he said.
The best things to do are to put vehicles in the garage when you are home, don’t leave anything valuable in your car or hide your possessions if you do.
“If you want to keep it, don’t leave it where people can see it,” Penkala said. “Put it in your glove box or console. Put it in the trunk or don’t take it. Just take your driver’s license and a credit card, if you need it. Typically, thieves don’t break into a vehicle where they don’t see something of value.”
Even if you are nearby or just getting out of the car for a few minutes, hide your valuables, he said.
“If anything, thieves have time,” Penkala said. “People will watch. If a woman jumps out and doesn’t have her purse, they know it’s in the vehicle.”
And there are even worse things that you can lose than a purse or cell phone.
“The thing that concerns us most is when people leave handguns in their cars,” Penkala said. “Obviously, this person is a criminal, who knows what they are going to do (when they steal your gun). We see it on a regular basis.”
Clay lost her purse, driver’s license, credit cards, medications, contact lenses, cash, work ID and makeup, Mendez said. The bigger problem is that she lives in New York, was visiting her family for Christmas and needed her driver’s license to be able to get on the plane to go home. Fortunately, her mom had her original birth certificate.
“When she turned her car in at Hertz, they said this is the third one (with smashed windows) to come in today,” Mendez said. “She had insurance because she paid for it with her bank card.”
Mendez said she was glad no one was hurt, but she was still angry.
“You see your daughter standing there crying, talking to the police,” she said. “It’s a violation, an intrusion.”