The police department in New Haven, Connecticut, is trying a new program in which officers will remove valuable possessions from people's unlocked cars and store the items in a police property room.
“It’s called a caretaker,” Lt. Herbert Sharp told residents on Nov. 1 in the East Rock neighborhood of the city, notes the New Haven Register.
“When it comes to a car, if there is something in plain view that is of value, and the car is unlocked, law enforcement can go into the car and retrieve that item and take it into the property [room] and place it where it is safe,” Sharp said.
The ABA Journal reported in 2013 that "community caretaking" is legal and is based on the notion that police may sometimes act as community caretakers to prevent harm in emergency situations. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed community caretaking for vehicles.
Sharp added that police will run the car owner's plate number to contact the owner, but if that fails, officers will leave a note about where the personal property can be retrieved.
“The bad guy is not going to break into the car and be able to take that item," Sharp claimed. "It inconveniences the person to come down and pick up the property."
Sharp explained that the city balked at putting up signs because it could make a neighborhood look bad.
“What you have to do is look at those lower crimes,” Sharp added. “Individuals who commit those crimes will always statistically commit more heinous crimes ... We have to at least address it. It’s a billion-dollar industry,” he said of break-ins with a loss of electronic equipment.