SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It's always good advice not to leave any valuables visible in a parked vehicle, but thieves are counting on people who forget to stow away their notebooks, laptops, and backpacks. They're smashing windows and grabbing valuables when people are eating lunch at restaurants or enjoying happy hour or going to a movie.
A restaurant in Santa Clara last night had five "smash & grab" incidents. Security camera video shared with ABC7 News shows how quickly the thieves operate -- typically in well under a minute or less.
Signs warn potential thieves that video cameras are in use, yet we saw two backpacks in clear view in a parking lot and a merchandise box in a vehicle parked curbside. Police say it's happening at various hot spots across Santa Clara.
The manager of one establishment said the suspects caught on camera drive different vehicles and appear to be different people.
A construction worker tells us he sees this all the time. "This is a problem. You forget that, boom, people take it. Every week you have one, two cars broken," said Domingo Santauste, a construction worker.
This business posts a sign about security cameras, but that doesn't seem to deter the auto burglars. Police say the video helps, although it's sometimes not good enough to read the license plates.
"It's pretty tough to get a video of a license plate, and a lot of times they either cover the plates or use paper plates or just take the license plate off altogether because they're a little savvy to the fact we can identify them through a license plate," said Lt. Dan Moreno, with the Santa Clara Police Department.
Police say even when people stow their brief cases and backpacks in the trunk, thieves just break into the trunk.
We found plenty of evidence people are leaving their backpacks in plain sight, creating a crime of opportunity.