SEBRING – Highlands County Sheriff’s Office has been reminding residents to use the 9 p.m. routine to secure all their belongings and lock their car doors for the evening. The program has been successful, for the most part.

However, there are still people who are leaving their vehicles unlocked and those vehicles are being burgled or even stolen. The HCSO Public Information Officer said there has not been a large uptick in vehicles being broken into or stolen but it is still happening. In fact, throughout the county, there have been nine stolen vehicles this month. The PIO said the vehicles include not just cars but ATVs, campers and golf carts.

Over the past week, the criminal activity was mostly in the southern end of the county with six cars being broken into on Skipper Road on Sept. 3. A truck was also stolen this week in Placid Lakes. As HCSO officials pointed out, the truck was unlocked and had the keys inside.

When there is a rash of cars being broken into or several in the same area, HCSO officers are taking a proactive approach and handing out fliers with “Lock it or lose it” campaign reminder.

HCSO officials stated 90+ percent of burgled or stolen vehicles are because they are unlocked.

“Help officers by locking your cars. Unless thieves see something they really want like a purse or a gun or a computer, they are not going to break the window,” the PIO said. “They don’t want to make noise. Bring valuables in the house, especially guns. Because then you have a gun in the hands of a criminal. That’s not a good situation for everyone.”

The fliers remind residents not to become an easy target for criminals.

“It only takes seconds for thieves to steal from an unlocked car. Be smart and lock up” the flier exclaims.