North Shore Car Theft

Theft of unlocked cars is common throughout the area


Even with public service announcements warning local residents of car burglaries, many can’t seem to learn to lock their cars.

According to Wilmette Police Commander Michael McGarry, North Shore vehicle burglaries doubled in recent years from 55 cases in 2015 to 108 cases in 2018.

“As far as we know most of them are [non local]. They usually come in other stolen vehicles and they’ll come in, and go around not only Winnetka, but in the entire North Shore, Highland Park, all over the place,” said New Trier Officer Gerardo Sarabia.

According to Officer Sarabia, car thieves target the North Shore because residents often leave expensive cars unlocked.

“They will go down the block and check every single door on every single car that is parked in the driveway and actually try to open the doors,” said Sarabia.

Thieves tend to take cars with a door open and the fob in. Officer Sarabia explained that thieves will usually rummage through the glove box and center console, and take whatever is valuable if they cannot get the car started.

“Electronics, they really don’t target that much because you can track them. So mostly it’s just cash and whatever is loose and easy,” he said.

According to the Wilmette Police Department, vehicle burglaries are typically committed at night by a group of people.

“We accidentally left our car unlocked and they just stole change from me. The same night, about 10 other cars in our neighborhood were broken into,” said Glenview resident Gretchen Conlon.

Winnetka resident Jennifer Stricklin realized her car had been stolen when it disappeared from her driveway one morning. Luckily, the police located the car soon after she reported its theft.

“We always lock our cars, but we’re human, and humans make mistakes. We live in a nice neighborhood but you can never be too cautious,” said Stricklin. “Lock your car and take the keys with you. Seems obvious but it’s a huge problem in Winnetka.”

Some North Shore residents find it frustrating that their neighbors are careless about locking their cars. Glencoe resident Alan Buchman said that those who leave their cars unlocked should be charged for using police time and expenses.

“Given all the police warnings and web postings, I am upset that at this point, both police time and taxpayer money goes into these investigations. It is not fair that I have to pay for someone else’s stupidity,” said Buchman.

Like Buchman, Wilmette resident Dave Lundy believes that locking cars is a simple task.

“We are blessed to live in a relatively safe area but that doesn’t mean it’s Mayberry. The police routinely warn residents and residents routinely ignore police. Residents are not helping themselves or their neighbors when they leave their cars or houses unlocked,” said Lundy.

To prevent vehicle burglaries, police officers walk through parking lots and if they see a vehicle unlocked with a valuable item on the front seat, they leave notes saying, “Please be vigilant and lock your doors and don’t leave anything in plain view,” said Officer Sarabia.

According to the Winnetka Police Department, the number of vehicle burglaries could be significantly reduced if people just locked their cars.

“We do public service announcements saying please lock your doors, but it’s up to them whether they will choose to or not. The bottom line is if you lock your doors, nothing is going to happen,” said Officer Sarabia.