LOS LUNAS — As the summer temperatures heat up, so can criminal activity.

The Los Lunas Police Department’s command staff is asking residents to be vigilant in not only protecting their own properties, but keeping an eye out for their neighbors.

Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule says he’s expecting the number of auto burglaries and auto thefts to increase this summer, just as it has in year’s past.

Naithan Gurule
Los Lunas Police Chief

“That is something we deal with continuously — it comes and goes in waves,” Gurule said. “If we can get people to put their valuables away and lock their cars and not leave anything in plain sight … it will help.”

“We refer to these as crimes of opportunity,” said LLPD Patrol Lt. Frank Lucero. “In most instances, if people hadn’t left their vehicles unlocked, not left valuables in their cars, it’s likely some of these crimes wouldn’t have occurred in the first place.”

Lucero says he sees a lot of reports regarding stolen vehicles is that owners left their cars running, making it easy for thieves to take them. He is noticing more people are starting their cars now in the summer months, turning on their air conditioners and leaving them unattended for several minutes until it cools down.

“We had a morning theft in the last few days out in the county,” he said. “They had left the car running.”

LLPD Deputy Chief Vince Torres says people continue do this for convenience, saying it’s easy to leave the car running and go inside for a few minutes to get something.

Another potential invitation for criminals is open garage doors. Lucero says some people have a tendency to leave them open, which is another invitation to criminals to take whatever they can.

“Don’t become a victim of opportunity,” Lucero advises. “Don’t be afraid to keep an eye out for your neighbors as well. If you see their garage door open, go ring their doorbell, or even call us. We’re more than happy to send an officer out to alert the homeowner.”

Lucero said LLPD officers will routinely warn residents when they see someone’s garage door open when they’re out on patrol.

Regardless of the time of year, Lucero says it’s always a good idea to make it a routine every night to do checks: Make sure the garage door is closed, the vehicles are locked, bring everything inside.

Chief Gurule says thieves are more likely to burglarize homes in the warm-weather months than in the winter. There are also ways to keep your homes safe from burglars.

“Alarms and dogs are always good for prevention,” Gurule said. “A lot of people have cameras now.”

Torres said they are very useful, especially equipment such as the Ring Video Doorbell because the system will send homeowners an alert when it detects movement.

“We have had people call into dispatch saying they were at work and they could see someone in their house,” Torres said. “It’s extremely helpful when they stay on the call with dispatch and they can provide description of the people in real time.”

Gurule says criminals aren’t necessarily looking to break into homes by kicking in a door or breaking a window. Again, he says, it’s a crime of opportunity.

“This winter we had a couple of teenagers from Albuquerque come down and they broke into homes where a sliding glass door was left unlocked,” the chief said. “They didn’t damage anything trying to get in. They were looking to get into houses without much effort.”

Lucero also says now that youngsters are at home more during the summer, he hopes parents will be mindful of their children’s online activities, and who they might be communicating with.

“We would hate for them to be victims of online crimes,” Lucero said.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing up and people are planning vacations, Lucero says it’s always a good idea to protect your property while you’re away.

“The best thing is to make sure you have someone checking on your property (while you’re gone),” Lucero said. “Or, leave it in such a way that doesn’t look like no one is there.”

The patrol lieutenant advises to have timers for both interior and exterior lighting, have someone checking on the house frequently and also filling out a form so law enforcement will know you’re gone and can make routine patrols by the home.

“What’s important about these forms is we’ll have contact information for the property owner in case we have to contact them,” he said. “We also advise that someone pick up the newspaper and check the mail.”

Gurule said he knows of a couple who vacations regularly, and will leave a card in the mailbox letting the postal employee hold their mail. The chief said someone saw the card, and knew exactly how long they were going to be out of town.

“They knew broke in and stole a safe full of guns,” Gurule said. “We encourage people to go to the post office and tell them in person rather than leaving a card in the mailbox where anyone can find it.”

“These are steps that people can take everyday to make sure they don’t become victims,” Lucero said.

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.