EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) – As people stop at restaurants for a bite to eat, thieves are licking their chops in the parking lot, looking to commit a “smash and grab” steal on whatever you’ve left in your car.
Eden Prairie police say they have had 23 thefts from vehicles in public places dating back to early September. The concern is that number will increase now that we’re in the holiday shopping season.
“I am really paranoid,” said one of the 23 victims who asked we hide her identity.
She said in mid-September she parked her SUV in a lot near the Cummins House, then watched her son play baseball on the nearby field.
“Right at the end of the game I started getting fraud notices that my card was being used,” she said.
The woman got back to her car and eventually noticed her back window broken and her purse gone. She said the thieves used her checks to cash thousands of dollars and stole irreplaceable belongings.
“I had a family picture in there that I only had one copy of,” she said. Her problems had only begun. “Then the time to get the window fixed, the money to get the keys, the house re-keyed. I had my key in there. I had my mother in law’s key in there.”
No arrests have been made and her belongings haven’t been recovered. Her story is one of nearly two dozen involving criminals lurking in public parking lots in the city.
Police say they look for items sitting out in the open, such as electronics or shopping bags filled with holiday gifts. The thefts have happened outside restaurants, shopping centers, daycares and more.
Police are now reminding people to put their belongings in the trunk or simply take things with them when they park.
“Every day when I leave, I have my purse — I think, ‘Do I need this in my purse?’ And I take out the gift cards and I take out receipts,” she said. “I don’t allow my son to put his backpack in the car if we run in somewhere because he has an iPad in there.”
Police say they’ve increased patrols in parking lots of shopping centers to combat thefts. They’ve also installed mobile surveillance cameras, one of which is set up near the Eden Prairie Center mall.