Gotcha: New police program targets potential theft victims

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

PRINCE GEORGE, VA (WWBT) – A new crime prevention program in Prince George targets potential victims - not criminals. It's called, "Gotcha." Gotcha cards are being left on vehicles when an officer spots a safety or security concern like valuables being left in plain sight.

In the parking lot of a store, Officer Earl Crawford spots lots of goodies in parked vehicles -- from CD's to cell phones.

Nicole Bell: That's a Gucci purse right there.
Earl Crawford: "Yes, that's something that would be attractive to a criminal and there is change right next to it."
Nicole Bell: Jackpot?
Earl Crawford: "Yup, jackpot."

They are potential crimes of opportunity.

"This is a preventable crime if you must take a moment to secure stuff," said Crawford.

To better protect folks, as we head into the holiday season, Prince George Police have a new program called "Gotcha." It targets potential theft victims like Florence Boyd. She left her windows down and food in her parked car.

"We don't even want to leave that out -- there's somebody hungry right now. You have cassettes and those can be easily secured in your glove box," Crawford said to Boyd.

When a Gotcha card is left on a vehicle, it lets the owner know that crooks could have made off with your stuff.

"I thought I had a ticket," said Beverly Gramick.

She got a Gotcha card for leaving her doors unlocked.

Nicole Bell: "Anything you'll do differently now?"
Beverly Gramick: "Oh yeah, I'll make sure I won't leave anything on the floorboard or seat and I'll make sure my windows are rolled up and locked."

Some are concerned that leaving Gotcha cards will leave a trail for would be thieves -- alerting them of a potential opportunity.

"With the education and benefit we thought it outweighed the risk of leaving cards as a trail," said Crawford.

Police say, they'll continue to canvass the county under the program in order to help prevent crime. The Gotcha program also targets homes and businesses. The department is asking for the public's input on the program -- just call 733-2773 to give your opinion.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.