As the number of vehicle-related thefts and burglaries has risen over the last couple of months, officials have reminded residents to secure their cars and belongings.

According to Riley County Police Department data, there were 52 vehicle burglary incidents in November, which is about 134% higher than the five-year average and more than 246% higher than November 2019, which recorded 15 incidents. In half the incidents, owners had left the vehicles unlocked when someone took items from inside.

Thefts of vehicles also increased 64% over the previous year, from 11 to 18, and 200% above the five-year average. In seven of the 18 cases, the keys were available inside the vehicle.

Police recovered a majority of the vehicles.

In December, RCPD responded to 31 vehicle burglaries and 13 auto thefts. December saw a slightly more modest increase in vehicle burglaries at almost 11% above last year’s 28 incidents, and 35% above the five-year average. In about half of those incidents, the vehicles were unsecured.

Meanwhile motor vehicles thefts rose 225% from 2019, from four incidents to 13, which also is about 103% higher than the five-year average. The report said six of the stolen vehicles had keys inside and four of them were left running at the time of the thefts. Police also recovered most of the vehicles.

“We are seeing the last month or two … an uptick in vehicle burglaries,” Capt. Greg Steere said at a Jan. 4 Riley County commission meeting, “so we’re trying to take every opportunity to remind folks to lock their cars and call us when they see suspicious activity and things like that. We had an arrest this weekend and actually recovered a stolen vehicle and it came from a citizen calling it in. ... That’ll be impactful on some of the stuff that we’ve been seeing the last couple of months so hopefully that’ll help.”

Director Dennis Butler said at a December law board meeting that it is difficult to explain crime spikes until the department can see a continuing trend over time.

He also advised residents to ensure their vehicles are locked and valuables are hidden out of plain sight.