Police car on the street

Police are warning southern Scottsdale residents to lock their cars and secure valuables following a spike in vehicle burglaries in the final months of 2020.

A Progress analysis of Scottsdale Police records found reported vehicle burglaries increased by 34 percent in 2020 in the department’s McKellips District, which covers most of southern Scottsdale south of Osborn Road.

A question posed by the Progress in a popular southern Scottsdale Facebook group yielded dozens of responses from individuals whose cars were broken into over the past year.

Some came away relatively unscathed – losing pocket change and knickknacks – but others saw a more significant financial impact.

Brittany Thomas said someone broke into her car while it was parked in a covered spot outside her condo and stole a diaper bag with her wallet, her daughter’s viola, three pairs of sunglasses and a portable DVD player.

Scottsdale Police were able to recover the viola and make an arrest after Thomas found it for sale on OfferUp, she said.

“They did find other property of mine but (it) was covered in drugs and no longer safe,” Thomas said.

Resident Birdi Davis said someone did significant damage to her vehicle last month.

“Someone smashed all of my windows in my old car and partied in the back seat,” she said.

The increase in burglaries last year was largely driven by a spike in vehicle break-ins between August and December.

As of Dec. 20, police records showed a total of 404 reported vehicle burglaries in the district in 2020, a substantial increase over the 302 incidents reported in all of 2019.

Between Aug. 1 and Dec. 20, police filed 209 reports connected to vehicle burglaries – an increase of 103 burglaries, or 97 percent, over the same time period in 2019.

The situation was particularly bad in October and November last year when the area saw vehicle burglaries increase by 200 percent over the year prior.

A Scottsdale Police spokesman said the department is aware of the increase in vehicle burglaries in southern Scottsdale in recent months.

“There is not anything at this point indicating a specific trend or perpetrator,” Officer Kevin Watts said. “Like all cities across the valley we are continually battling these types of property crimes.”

Watts said many of the incidents are likely “crimes of opportunity” resulting from perpetrators coming across unsecured vehicles or cars with valuable items left in plain sight.

Several of the residents who spoke with the Progress said their vehicles were burglarized after they or a family member forgot to lock the vehicle.

The department said residents can reduce the likelihood of becoming the victim of a vehicle burglary by always locking their vehicle and not leave personal items like backpacks, purses or valuable items in plain sight.

While southern Scottsdale saw a substantial increase in incidents at the end of 2020, some residents told the Progress the vehicle burglary problem goes back years.

Resident Carmen Strane said her family’s cars have been broken into three times over the past two years.

Thomas, whose car was broken into in January, said a neighbor’s car was broken into a few months later, and her family moved to San Tan in the East Valley due to the increase in crime.

“We have since moved an hour away as the crime has significantly increased in Scottsdale,” she said.

According to police department records, the number of vehicle break-ins in the McKellips District remained relatively consistent in 2019 (326 burglaries) and 2020 (302).

However, the area did see a spike in burglaries in January 2019, when there were 63 reported vehicle burglaries, a 200 percent increase over the year prior.

Scottsdale Police are taking steps to combat the latest surge.

“Our crime prevention team and beat officers have been and will continue to educate and remind our community how to reduce the chances of being victimized,” Watts said.

Officers are also working closely with apartment and condo communities to share that information.

“Additionally, our beat officers will continue directed patrol activity related to this type of crime in their beats,” Watts said.