Mall cops flag juicy cars for thieves

Cops in Rockdale, Georgia are putting helpful yellow stickers on the windows of cars that have packages in plain sight so that crooks know which cars to break into.
Officers with the Conyers Police Department will be on foot patrol in the parking lots of major shopping areas in the city over the next couple of weeks. They will place yellow tickets on vehicles with packages or boxes of merchandise that are visible on the seats or floorboards of cars; in other words, vehicles that are easy targets for thieves.

Conyers Police Chief David Cathcart said the yellow ticket program is part of an overall crime prevention program to help remind people to be careful with regard to their Christmas packages.

Link (via Schneier)


  1. Though IANAL*, I wonder if the police can be brought up on charges for “aiding and abbetting” robbers.

    *first use of an acronym I learned on Boing Boing!

  2. While I normally rail against indicators like this (beware the pizza shop employee who I catch sticking flyers on my doorknob) this one seems pretty minor. The whole point of the ticket is to say “I can easily see something in your car,” something the thief could see for him or herself just as easily.

    So at best this lets a thief know there’s something in the car from 10 feet away rather than 2. Since someone isn’t going to scope for a smash-and-grab if there’s anyone to see their behavior anyway I don’t think this is much of a risk. The potential reward, however, seems pretty decent.

    Then again, I once stuck a note under someone’s wiper that said “if I can see the laptop in your backseat then a crook who is willing to smash your window can too.” So maybe I’m biased.

  3. If at this point in history, you are dumb enough to leave packages in plain sight… in a mall parking lot… during Christmas rush… well… you just aren’t very bright are you?

  4. I’m in Conyers, and in fact I work at the Wal-Mart (I know, I know!), which is one of the biggest retailers in the area. (For the record, we have no mall in Rockdale.) And I haven’t seen any of these yet. Granted, I wasn’t looking for them.

    This’ll blow over soon, and then we can all get back to having group teen sex…

  5. It looks like the thing is stuck on the window
    with adhesive residue. I’d be pretty mad about
    having to clean that off my window.

    I can make my own decisions about whether I’m
    comfortable leaving visible packages in my car,

  6. Hey, my hometown made BoingBoing. Cool, except for the dumbness.

    I, like Mark Rowan, haven’t seen any of this yet (my Jeep is constantly junked out with boxes and piles of things. Let’s see if they give me a sticker when I’m buying groceries.

  7. It beats the original plan to post giant billboards alerting drivers who accidentally left their keys inside.

  8. I don’t think this will encourage the theft of any conspicuous items. In fact, the presence of these flags would probably reduce it for two reasons. First, it makes the owner aware of the possibility. Also, it makes the potential thief aware that the vehicle may be observed.

  9. There’s a reason that we here in Georgia sing R.E.M.’s Don’t Go Back to Rockville as Don’t Go Back to Rockdale. It’s just a redneck hole that is one of many reason our state is red.

  10. It could be worse.

    In college I once found a bright orange tag on the handlebars of my bike, courtesy of the University Police, notifying me that I had neglected to lock it to the bike rack, and informing me that it could easily be stolen. THANKS!

    The program was discontinued very quickly.

  11. Tisk, tisk! Security through obfuscation is something that BB readers so often condemn. Why defend it here? The police are publishing a possible security exploit with the hope that the responsible party will take action.

  12. In Portland, OR the cops are doing something similar for cars parked downtown. The big difference is that they make a note of it and then send a letter to the registered owner of the car letting them know about the possible issue. It’s not as immediate, but I think it’s intended more as an awareness campaign. It seems pretty worthless to me, but compared to this…

  13. they may as well smash your windows and take your stuff, then leave a note that says “See how easy it was to take your stuff? Next time be more careful, dumbass!”

    I used to have a Jeep and oddly enough after having 2 prior cars stolen, the jeep wasn’t messed with at all. Mine didn’t even have door locks, and I liked it that way so that thieves don’t even have to bother slashing my top to get whatever it is that they want, just take it.

  14. I understand the logic of it, I understand the logic of the idea that “even without the stickers, thieves would be able to see packages in the cars anyway”, but the bottom line is this IS making it EASIER for thieves to identify the cars with valuables inside.

    I remember sitting on my 2nd floor porch one night in the dark, watching a pair of kids walk down the street on either side of the row of parked cars, stopping methodically to test whether any of the doors were unlocked (walking the same speed as each other, on either side of the cars, without ever looking down, keeping their eyes out for anyone in the vicinity). If the police had put flags on top of the cars to warn the owners that “you left your car unlocked” it would have saved those kids a lot of time and work. These stickers are the same thing.

  15. If placing the tickets is the end of what the police are doing, this is only facilitating the rapid grading of entire parking lots by thieves quickly scanning from the edges instead of walking between the rows.

    I suspect, though, that the police will be staking out a percentage of carded cars and making some arrests to get the message out that the placards are not so much a flag meaning “easy pickings” but rather “potential police surveillance in area.”

    If the opportunists committing this sort of crime can be made to connect the placards to an increased risk of arrest instead of an increased yield of stolen goods, then it may skew the risk/reward equation far enough to decrease this sort of crime by a similar proportion to that which could be achieved by a vastly more expensive community-wide increase in police presence over the holiday season.

  16. Tisk, tisk! Security through obfuscation is something that BB readers so often condemn. Why defend it here? The police are publishing a possible security exploit with the hope that the responsible party will take action.

    Right on the money, Seanbot.

  17. If, at some point in the future, I accidentally leave expensive items in plain sight, I’d rather have my mistake pointed out to me by the police with a bright yellow sticker than find it out the hard way when my car is broken into.

  18. If you were walking through the parking lot to the mall, and saw a few of these stickers, wouldn’t it serve as a reminder for you to double check that you didn’t leave your own packages?

    Plus, if you were a thief, wouldn’t you kind of think that there is a police presence in a parking lot that has a bunch of these yellow stickers around?

    I think it is a swell idea.

  19. This is an excuse to allow the cops to walk around to all cars and check out the insides. Any guesses as to how long it will be before the first person is charged with a crime as a result of one of these checks?

  20. There are lots of arguments to be made here. Sure, thieves might see the stickers and assume there are police in the area, thus it’s not safe. But parking lots these days are filled with security cameras, that doesn’t stop theives.

    I could even argue that some thieves would dress as cops, and carry around a pile of yellow stickers, whilst sizing up various cars.

    Who knows how it could play out.

  21. I think it’s kind of nice. This way the would-be thieves don’t have to walk in the cold weather to case cars and they can instead just drive by and peek at the cars’ windows. This saves time too! Merry Christmas everybody!

  22. Over at the MOG (Mall of GA) the Simon rent-a-cops will actually stop and remind you not to leave your packages in plain sight. Of course, the crooks probably just keep an eye out for when they do stop and hit that car next.

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