File Photo/Nevada Sagebrush
Cars line the parking spots of the Brian J. Whalen Parking Complex on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Parking garages are a common place for car burglaries.

It’s a terrible feeling when you walk outside your home or get back to your car after classes and find that your car window has been smashed and everything inside has disappeared, or, for some reason, your license plate is gone. And now, police say, these thefts are on the rise.

Todd Renwick, assistant director for the University of Nevada, Reno’s Police Services, said reports of car burglaries are on track this year to reach roughly the same numbers as last year. After two months in 2018, there have been four car burglaries reported on campus. In 2017 the total was 27 burglaries.

However, reports of car burglaries outside the university have increased this year, according to Tim Broadway, public information officer at the Reno Police Department.

“It’s an ongoing problem for not just our agency but others in the area,” Broadway said.

Car burglaries are often the result of valuables left in plain sight, police said. If thieves can look through your windows and see something possibly valuable, they’ll break a window and take what they can see, and feelings about what’s considered valuable can vary.

“We’ve seen a window smashed for the change in the ashtray,” Renwick said.

Even if you don’t have any valuables stolen, the cost to get a window repaired could set you back $130 or more, depending on your car. And if auto glass repair shops are booked, you could be without a window for some time.

Broadway said the most common areas for car burglaries are shopping malls, residential areas, near apartments and on streets with congested parking.

“[People] might live in an affluent area, but it’s not necessarily safe to leave valuables in vehicles,” Broadway said.

Police provided a few tips for keeping your valuables safe. First, don’t leave them in your car. But, if you must, make sure they are hidden from sight. Lock your doors, park in busy and well-lit areas and maybe think about installing a car alarm.

According to Renwick, catching thieves can happen a few different ways: in the act of breaking into a car (which usually happens in a matter of seconds), if they use your stolen credit card or try to pawn your valuables. On campus, security in parking garages is limited. Of the university’s three parking structures, only the Sierra Street garage near the residence halls has cameras.

Keeping your valuables safe on the inside of your car is one challenge, but what about valuables on the outside? License plates are also a common target for thieves.

“It seems kind of silly, but stealing a license plate is only a misdemeanor,” Broadway said. It’s silly because the theft is usually a result of something more sinister.

Often, license plates are stolen to replace “hot” plates on a stolen vehicle. That’s what happened to Caroline Ackerman, a senior journalism student at UNR.

Her car was parked at an apartment complex on Seventh Street across from Walmart when she noticed Virginia City license plates on the front and back of her car. The plates weren’t hers.

“I thought it wasn’t my car,” she said.

She took the plates to the police who said they were from a stolen car, and Ackerman was forced to take a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles for new ones.

At the DMV — a “five hour ordeal” — Ackerman paid $14 for replacements, and employees told her to look into anti-theft screws for her new plates. Police recommended the same thing.

An anti-theft license plate kit costs about $15 dollars on Amazon. It might save you the cost of replacements and a long day at the DMV.

Ryan Suppe can be reached at and on Twitter @salsuppe.