Police in New Haven, Connecticut are breaking into vehicles to prevent break-ins as part of a program they hope will convince people to stash their possessions and lock their doors.
New Haven police announced this week that officers will be looking for unlocked cars with valuables in plain sight. The police said they plan to enter these cars without permission or a warrant to collect the belongings so they “are protected from criminals.”
The police believe that if they get to the valuables before the criminals, they will be doing the car owners a favor. At the same time, they are hoping to send a message to people to be more careful with their automobile security.
After rummaging through a person’s private vehicle (and possibly searching for anything illegal in the process), officers will first attempt to contact the owner using their license plate information. If they cannot reach othem, officers take the possessions, lock the car, and leave a notice for the owner to retrieve their items at the police station.
Local resident George Critides told reporters he thinks the police should focus on catching the criminals — not breaking into cars — to stop break-ins. “I think there should be more foot patrols and more bicycle police in the neighborhood,” he said.
Other residents said they were fine with the new policy as long is it helped keep them safe. “I think if it’s something really valuable, if they see something, like a wallet maybe or cell phone or camera, and it’s something that should be protected, it could be a good idea,” resident Allison Khoe said.
Local news reports failed to discuss that the program could serve as a potential justification for unwarranted searches. If so, under the pretense of protecting car owners from burglars, police will be able to enter anyone’s car as long as it is unlocked — and it is unclear whether the new policy will allow officers to search cars for other items and potentially prosecute illegal discoveries. As of Wednesday morning, New Haven Police had not responded to an email from Anti-Media attempting to clarify this concern.