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12 car break-ins at trailheads reported to Boise Police this year

Out of the 12 break-ins, four of them happened on Old Penitentiary Road. Oftentimes, organized crime is to blame, according to Boise Police.

BOISE, Idaho — After hitting the trails three weeks ago at Military Reserve, the unexpected happened to Patricia Rich and her husband.

“We hadn’t even gotten home yet, and I got a message from MasterCard that there was some suspicious activity on my card,” Rich said.

Thieves had broken into Rich’s locked car and stolen her debit and credit cards. Rich said the scariest part was that she did not even realize until she got a notification from her bank.

She said nothing was out of place.

“You couldn't tell that the car had been broken into you, couldn't tell that the wallet had been messed with,” Rich said. “Everything was put back.”

Rich is not alone. There have been 12 car break-ins at trailheads reported to the Boise Police Department this year, a number financial crimes detective Brad Thorne said is fairly typical.

Out of the 12 break-ins, four of them happened on Old Penitentiary Road.

Thorne said organized crime crews are often to blame. Oftentimes, they travel from state to state breaking into cars. That way, the crews are less likely to get caught.

After stealing someone’s credit or debit cards, Thorne said they buy Visa gift cards, which is essentially like stealing cash.

“You can put $500 on multiple gift cards and walk out of a store with $2,000 worth of gift cards that can't be traced,” Thorne said.

In Rich’s case, that was exactly what happened. Within an hour, the thieves had charged $500 Visa gift cards at the Meridian Walmart. They also stole over $100 in cash.

Thorne said there are three main ways for people to break into cars – breaking a window, using a tool to break the keyhole and leaving your door unlocked.

To avoid getting your car broken into, he said it is important to carry all your important belonging with you while hiking.

Being aware of your surrounding is also helpful, Thorne said.

“They show up and they watch until you leave knowing that you're going to be gone for 20 minutes to two hours,” Thorne said.

To help mitigate theft, Boise Police has an Organized Retail Crime unit that works with the Organized Crime Association of Idaho. Together, they identify offenders and resolve cases.

Partnering with the community is also vital. If you see something suspicious at a trailhead, Thorne said to write down the license plate number and contact the police.

While Rich said the experience three weeks ago will not stop her family from hiking, they will be more careful in the future.

“Definitely not leaving anything in the car anymore,” Rich said.

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