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Riverdale Dunthorpe Patrol
P.O. Box 532 Lake Oswego, OR 97034
Let's Talk about your Security Needs

Sept. 2013 - Criminals Exploit Complancency

You may have heard neighbors talking about recent vehicle thefts or items being taken from garages or vehicles. There has been an increase in criminal activity in Dunthorpe and the adjacent neighborhoods in the past couple of months. Specifically crime related to vehicles, mail and packages. This may be a long email, but please keep reading.

In the last three weeks, I am aware of five unlocked vehicles being searched by criminals. Two of those were stolen when keys were found inside the vehicle. I am also aware of one bicycle that was apparently stolen from inside a garage. A good way to see the type and number of reported crimes in any given area in Portland is to use the Portland Maps website at You can enter an address and see what crimes were reported within the last 12 months inside a ½ mile radius of that address. A similar, less useful, tool is available for Clackamas County addresses at

Vehicles have long been a target of thieves. Criminals are organized. A resident of the nearby South Burlingame neighborhood posted a video that confirmed my theory that criminals walk through the neighborhood, checking every car. He was frustrated by the continued crime near his home and installed video cameras to record activities on the street. His YouTube video shows a criminal checking all the cars parked on his street and finding one of his cars unlocked. The criminal then methodically searched his car for several minutes. While his clip does not show the criminal being dropped off, the victim describes that a vehicle stops and drops off multiple people who then start checking the cars. In the video you can see that it is raining. Poor weather does not prevent criminals from practicing their trade. Long driveways, gravel roads and fences will deter some criminals, but not all. You can watch the video here.


Between my work with Riverdale Patrol and my police career, I have contacted countless victims of vehicle based crimes. Here is what I have found. If the doors were locked and access was gained by breaking a window, then something of perceived value was left in plain sight; a purse on the seat, a cell phone on the console, a shopping bag on the floor. The criminal took the risk of making noise because there was a perceived reward. When a criminal finds an unlocked vehicle, they will quietly open the door and search the vehicle for anything of value. When a criminal is searching the vehicle and finds the keys to that vehicle, they steal the entire vehicle. Both of the vehicles that were recently stolen from the Dunthorpe area were unlocked and had the keys inside. The same is true for all of the vehicles that were stolen from the area in the last several years.

Speaking of keys, I want to talk about modern vehicle keys. Modern vehicles have keys with an electronic transmitter inside the bulky plastic portion of the key. The vehicle ignition system has been programmed to only start the engine when one of the registered keys is in close proximity to the vehicle. Some newer vehicles have even moved away from requiring that a key be inserted into a lock or ignition and will unlock doors and allow the vehicle to be started as long as one of the linked keys is close to the vehicle. How close is close enough? Do you park your vehicle in the garage and hang the keys on the wall just inside the door? Is that close enough to allow your vehicle to be unlocked or allow the engine to start? Couple that with leaving your garage door open and you may be leaving your vehicle vulnerable.

Here is the bottom line. If you lock your vehicle and don’t leave anything of potential value visible, the criminals will move to the next vehicle. Of course it is best to park your vehicle inside a garage at night and definitely don’t leave any keys inside the vehicle regardless of where you park it.

I advocate for the use of locking mailboxes. For a long time, any locked mailbox was enough of a deterrent to make criminals skip past your mailbox and check the next one. My personal locking mailbox has been victimized twice in the last year. The first time, a criminal was able to reach through the mail slot and grab some items from inside. Unfortunately a grandparent had sent some cash for a “Run for the Arts” fundraiser and while the criminal left the greeting card in some nearby bushes, they kept the cash. A couple of weeks ago, a criminal used a screwdriver or small pry bar to force the locked door open. A few years ago, I interrupted some criminals as they were prying open mailboxes in the Dunthorpe area. The tactic is not new, but I think it will become more popular as more people replace a standard mailbox with one that is locked. If you are planning to replace your mailbox, I suggest looking at the stronger, more secure locking mailboxes. There are some resources listed with the newsletter about mailbox security at our website.

Last week, a resident of the South Burlingame neighborhood watched two men steal a package from the front porch of a neighbor. She called the police and the two men were caught and arrested. Her email didn’t state the time of day, but based on other information in her email, I assume this happened during daylight hours. Fortunately for the victim, someone saw the crime taking place and, with the help of additional neighbors, was able to intervene by calling the police.

Nothing in this message is new. The crimes and tactics are not new. Criminals have been committing crimes like these for a long time. The Dunthorpe area has enjoyed a very low crime rate compared to the rest of the city. Unfortunately that has bred a complacency that is being targeted by criminals. When criminals are active in our area and are successful, they will return. We must do our best to keep them away by making the area less lucrative.