On nearly any day of the week the parking lots at Packwood Creek shopping center in Visalia are full of cars. Officers say the lots could also be full of people looking to steal a car.
In January, Visalia police noticed a 9-percent increase in car thefts when compared to January 2011. The up kick in stolen vehicles prompted officers to want to get more information out to drivers on how to keep their cars safe when they leave them out for long periods of time. The first piece of advice they're giving is to always lock your car.
Sgt. Amy Watkins said, "You know valuables call phones things like that in cars which will catch and eye first and once they're in the vehicle they might decide to steal the vehicle."
Visalia Police Department's Sergeant Amy Watkins says the county's auto theft task force is already busy dealing with vehicle crimes and the surge in car thefts doesn't help their case load. "They're looking for the quick steal, vehicles that can be taken, in a moment."
Action News spoke with drivers parking their cars in Packwood Creek Shopping Center. Some say they're surprised there are so many car thefts in the popular area.
Others like Denise Levine say they're not surprised thieves are hitting the busy parking lots. Levine says she's noticed an increase in auto crimes here recently. "That I know they are especially in this area right here I know a few people that have been hit either their tires slashed or broke into."
Though the weather is nice and warm out -- Visalia police say many cars get stolen when people leave them running outside.
Over the next few weeks as the weather gets colder -- officers are advising people to always remain in your car if you're outside warming it up.