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Be Aware of Increased Auto Thefts During Balloon Fiesta

Auto theft rates in Albuquerque have begun to fall, but are still unreasonably high. Previous statistics have shown that 2/3 of all vehicles are stolen in residential settings during the hours of 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. while most of us are asleep. Although this time frame continues to be a problem, there is a new trend developing. Auto thieves are targeting restaurant parking lots during traditional lunch and dinner hours. They are conducting surveillance on the lot, observe citizens entering the facility and then proceed to steal the vehicle knowing that the owners will be occupied for at least an hour. The time between the theft and discovery of the missing vehicle provides enough opportunity to exit the lot without being observed. Many of these thefts are to heavy duty Ford F-Series and Dodge Ram pick up trucks, which are popular vehicles for transporting south of the border.

This new strategy appears to be on-going, but could pose a particular problem for Balloon Fiesta participants and spectators. The City will experience a large influx of visitors and many will have pickup trucks used as chase vehicles and equipment storage. Therefore, it is important to raise your level of awareness, which should include employee training. Staff members should be made aware of the current trends and be diligent about not only your guests, but for their own personal and vehicle safety.

Any parking lot can be considered a target-rich environment for thieves. If you manage or own a restaurant, be particularly aware of the new trend. Hotel, motel and other overnight lodging facilities should be diligent about activity in the parking lot. Consider increasing parking lot security during peak dining hours and during overnight hours at lodging facilities. Be especially aware of persons sitting inside a vehicle or loitering in and around the area. Remember, the normal patron enters the lot, finds a parking stall, exits the vehicle and enters your facility. Any other behavior should get your attention and be considered suspicious. If you observe this type of activity, be observant of person and vehicle description and call 242-COPS (2677) to report. Be visible and active in the parking lot. Your presence and movement might be the deterrent that sends the thief away.

Review and implement the following auto theft prevention information for your facility as well as alerting your customers whenever possible.

  • Report suspicious behavior or criminal activity to 242-COPS or 911 depending on need.
  • Show a strong presence in the parking lot, particularly during peak hours with security personnel or employees – they should be easily recognizable as employees.
  • Make note of Ford F-Series and Dodge Ram pickup trucks entering your lot and watch them closely.
  • Evaluate parking lot and external building lighting.
  • Always take the keys, roll up windows, lock doors and remove or cover items from view.
  • Encourage the use of anti-theft devices such as stirring wheel locks to layer protection.
  • Provide auto theft Prevention information to patrons whenever possible.

Auto thieves are looking for the path of least resistance and all crimes have a target, opportunity and the desire. Encourage property users to remove targets from inside the vehicle and pay attention to targeted vehicles like Ford and Dodge pickups. Reduce the opportunity by rolling up windows and locking doors. Be visible and active in the parking lot to provide awareness. Your eyes and ears along with the willingness to report non-legitimate parking lot activity can provide a safer, more secure environment.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association’s mission is to empower the food and beverage industry by promoting and protecting common values and interests. It has more than 1,000 members in 111 cities all over New Mexico, who join together for meetings, seminars and the hospitality industry awards to honor the industry’s top achievers. It has actively represented and promoted the food service industry in New Mexico since 1946.