Report cards aim to protect drivers from thieves - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Report cards aim to protect drivers from thieves

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They're going around South Burlington peeking in car windows. They're looking for iPods, loose change and unlocked doors. But they're not thieves. Armed with clipboards and report cards, these community justice members are evaluating the risk factors of vehicles parked on city streets.

Coordinator Lisa Bedinger partnered with the police department. She says the preventive program aims to educate drivers, making them less likely to be a thief's next target.

The report card program is an initiative Burlington started in 2009. Bedinger said it worked so well there, she wanted to give it a try.

"It's important to me that our community is safe. And that this has been a problem in our community recently, so it's nice to be able to do something about it," Bedinger said.

The latest numbers show South Burlington had 88 car break-ins in 2008 and 75 in 2009. But in 2010 that number more than doubled.

Bedinger and her team don't physically touch the cars but do a visual lock check, followed by a scan for valuables in plain sight. We asked them to check out our car. Turns out we have room for improvement. While the tinted windows and locked doors helped us, my bag and laptop on the front seat made us a target. But it's the less obvious items, like loose change and car chargers, that make drivers a target. It's best to keep both hidden.

"We're letting people know if their cars might be at risk of being broken into," Bedinger said.

All their poking around certainly caught the attention of a few concerned citizens, giving the pros a chance to explain their report card program in person.

It's an ounce of prevention that could save you a headache this holiday season.

The community justice folks would like to expand the report card program. They plan to get permission to evaluate cars on private property, starting with the city's shopping malls.

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