Last week, in the early hours of the morning, there were four reported car break-ins on quiet streets in Needham. They occurred in an area near Dover and Wellesley. Deputy Police Chief Christopher Baker said in one case the thieves stole a car, which was recovered in Somerville. A purse was taken from a car parked on Windsor Road.

Suzi Fresco Johnson of Oxbow Road was awakened in the middle of the night by a notification of activity on her ring camera. She played back the video and saw a masked man running toward an unlocked car parked in her driveway. “He knew what he was doing,” Johnson said as the video showed him brazenly opening the door, checking out the contents of the car and quickly moving on after finding nothing of value. “What really floors us is that a light went on in our driveway when the motion detector was triggered and it did not deter him from doing what he was doing, at all.”

Baker said there’s no exact explanation for the break-ins. “It could be a thrill, greed, a feeling that even if they get caught, they won’t be prosecuted or it won’t be on their record.” He said thieves have broken into cars parked in the industrial park in the past and taken laptops or video equipment people brought to town for trade shows. Baker said Needham police are working with other area police departments to try to track down the thieves. 

“It’s a crime of opportunity,” said Baker. “The biggest takeaway is not to leave items in your car, not out in the open. And certainly don’t leave your key there.”

While still rare in Needham, police department data shows an uptick in cases of theft from a motor vehicle over the past few years. Numbers range from 35 in 2019, 27 in 2020, down to six in 2021 during COVID, but up again to 13 in 2022 and reaching a high of 50 in 2023. Baker said the illegal activity goes in ebbs and flows and tends to trend up at the end of June and early July. There have been 11 incidents so far this year, and he said it’s hard to say whether recent break-ins are connected to other car break-ins that occurred in May.

When asked whether residents should be concerned that these auto break-ins may lead to home invasions, Baker said that while home break-ins have occurred in Needham, people should not be losing sleep over it. The best prevention against all theft, he said, is to keep the doors of your cars and homes locked.

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