Car break-ins plague locals

By LINDSAY WELBERS
Staff Writer

Car break-ins in Hyde Park in September were up almost three times over the same period last year, Chicago Police said.

Officer Jose Estrada, spokesman for Chicago Police News Affairs, said in 2012 Hyde Park had 13 reported car break-ins from Sept. 1 through Sept. 27. During the same time period in 2013, 37 cars had reportedly been broken into.

Estrada said there was no evidence that the thieves used high-tech equipment to intercept a keyless entry system’s code, but some Hyde Parkers question if that is accurate.

Yael Hoffman, who lives at 50th Street and Dorchester Avenue, said her car was broken into at least six times in the last year. Each time, the windows on her 2007 Honda Civic were not broken but the glove compartment had clearly been rifled through.

She said she can’t believe she would leave it unlocked with that kind of frequency.

“They don’t find much in the glove box. They leave the CDs, they’re kids’ CDs anyway, and they leave a mess. It’s clear someone has been in your car,” Hoffman said. “When we first moved in around here around 2009 we had a window smashed and GPS stolen. We just don’t leave anything in the car anymore.”

Harold Stotland, who lives on 55th Street and Kenwood Avenue, said his car has been entered twice in as many weeks. Each time nothing except change was taken and there was no damage to the vehicle to indicate a forced entry.

“As I seldom use my remote beeper to either enter or lock the car, I don’t know how the culprits gained entry,” Stotland said.

Former Fair Trader owner Cindy Pardo said her car has been broken into on at least two occasions.

“The first was a time when we had come home fairly late and I wasn’t absolutely positive that we had locked the car,” Pardo said. The thieves stole her cell phone and rooted through the glove compartment.

The second time, however, she was certain the car was locked. Her husband entered the car early in the morning to retrieve his work tools and relocked it before he left. When she went out 90 minutes later the glove compartment had been rifled through again. She said she couldn’t be certain if they broke in before or after her husband retrieved his tools because he didn’t enter the front portion of their 2005 Toyota Prius.

“The first time I thought, ‘It’s my own darn fault, it happens, it’s the city.’ The second time I was quite sure I had locked the car.”

Again there was no damage to the vehicle. Her car opens using a touch system that requires a key, but it opens when the owner’s hand touches the underside of the door.

Estrada said that while the technology exists to intercept a vehicle’s lock code remotely, dealerships or locksmiths use it to remake keys with chips in them.

“This isn’t the first time this has come up,” Estrada said. “From personal research I’ve done those devices are prohibitively expensive and don’t work with newer technology.”

The devices can range in cost between $2,000 and $3,000, he said. They work most easily with vehicles made before 2001 or 2002 that don’t have coded chips or aftermarket alarms in them.

“After that car manufacturers started using new technology with regular coded chips where the codes rotate randomly so it never uses the same code more than two or three times in a row and a transponder will switch out the code with the car,” Estrada said. Each decoding device is also specific to each vehicle manufacturer.

To date, he said, there has never been a confirmed report of vehicles being broken into using this technology in the city of Chicago.

“I think it’s just more of these urban legends that’s running wild.” Estrada said.

l.welbers@hpherald.com