Going to the mall can be an all-day affair, and often, people leave their cars unattended in the parking lot for hours.
Those shoppers could be making themselves a target for sneaky thieves who prey on shoppers, knowing they will be inside for a long time.
It was an unexpected end to the evening for one frequent Westfield Trumbull Mall goer recently, who parked at the north parking desks and left his car there for several hours.
When he returned, around 10 p.m., he noticed his Jeep was unlocked.
"It usually unlocks automatically when I touch the door handle, and this was the one time this didn't happen. I was like, ‘oh, wow I must have forgotten to lock my door’,” the man who wished to remain anonymous said.
He said he looked around inside and realized “that my wallet, sunglasses, GPS and a bunch of cash had all been stolen."
It was about $600 worth of his belongings.
This is something malls not only across the state, but across the country have had to deal with.
Just in the last year, there have been dozens of car break-ins, thefts and larcenies at shopping centers in Connecticut.
Eyewitness News went through stacks of incident reports for 13 different malls to see which ones were hit most often, and where you could be the most vulnerable.
From January of 2016 until now, Westfield Trumbull had the highest number of larcenies, with 19 reported incidents in the past 14 months.
The Connecticut Post Mall in Milford closely follows with 15 thefts from cars.
There were 10 incidents reported at the Westfarms Mall, and six other malls saw at least four break-ins, one had only one, and three malls had none at all.
Cars were also stolen from the Westfarms Mall, Brass Mill Center and Enfield Square Mall.
In many of these cases, police say cars were left unlocked, personal items were prominently displayed, or shopping bags were visible on the seats, but a handful of victims came back to find the windows of their parked cars had been smashed and their vehicles were damaged by these thieves.
While this may seem like a lot of break-ins, it equates to only about one per month at the most common malls.
For people who often shop at those malls or shopping centers, they say it's scary and unsettling to know that someone might be roaming the parking lots.
Christina Nichols was on her way to the Connecticut Post Mall, when Eyewitness News caught up with her to find out how she keeps her car safe.
"I make sure bags are in the trunk, or I make sure they're down and covered up so it doesn't give them another opportunity to see something they can steal. Now, I’m a little nervous,” Nichols said.
Manchester Police Capt. Christopher Davis said several years ago, signs were put up at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills.
"Reminding shoppers not to leave their keys in their car, not to leave valuables in the car, various tips to cut back on the amount of thefts from vehicles,” Davis said.
He said he believes people are starting to get the message, and they’re keeping those simple steps in mind before walking away from their cars.
Davis said often times, people don’t even know they’ve been victimized. The car might have just been rifled through and items like loose change and gift cards could have been taken.
"If you leave your car unlocked, there's a good chance that somebody might be out there checking to see if anything is easy to be taken,” Davis said.
Security measures are also in place at the malls to safeguard shopper's valuables, including, security cameras and foot patrols.
Davis said the best way to protect yourself is by taking only the essentials, such as, your license, credit cards, and a cell phone with you, and leave the rest at home.
It's also important to park under a light, tuck your valuables away, and make sure you don't leave your keys in the car.
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