An idea conceived during a police captain's lunchtime walk has become a warning aimed at preventing theft from vehicles -- and if you leave your car unlocked in Towson, it could turn up on your windshield.
Capt. George Harvey, who heads Towson Precinct, was walking to his credit union before Christmas when he saw a woman's purse on the seat of an unoccupied car. Such an invitation to theft annoyed him, so on the way back he took a harder look: Counting the cars that were unlocked or with visible valuables inside. He counted 14.
"I asked my people to develop me something that looks like a parking ticket," Harvey said.
They came up with a sheet that says "Baltimore County Police Department" in black letters on one side. On the other is a form the officer can fill out, warning that the car was unlocked, that a purse (or a telephone, shopping bags, briefcases or other items) had been in view.
It also has a box for "visible unused steering wheel locking device" (and "change and other currency."
Towson officers have been leaving the warnings on windshields of offending cars since January, Harvey said. "It's part of a patrol strategy," he said.
The strategy also includes notifying householders who leave garage doors or windows open. Some people have been surprised to discover a police officer on the doorstep at 2 a.m., advising them that they've left the garage door unlocked, he said.
Harvey thinks such attention to detail is useful to remind people to protect themselves -- a reminder that is necessary surprisingly often, according to the captain, who says he's seen an astonishing array of things left visible in cars.
Thefts from vehicles in Towson have been relatively low, he said -- five in September, four in December. Only two were reported in January, he said.
Citizen reaction has been almost all positive -- about 10 calls thanking the police and one very angry citizen who didn't like the warning, Harvey said.
He said he will continue the warnings.
"It shows the folks that come in town that we are looking, not just driving by," he said.
Pub Date: 4/01/98