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Eastside car break-ins increase 200 percent

LAWRENCEVILLE - Vehicle break-ins have surged nearly 200 percent in Gwinnett's east police precinct, a 125-square-mile swath covering portions of several cities and all of Dacula.

Thus far in 2009, the precinct has logged 96 entering-auto incidents - about three times the amount tallied in the same time span last year.

In 73 percent of the thefts, according to police, the victim's had left their vehicles unlocked.

The crimes, for the most part, have happened between 2:30 and 10:30 p.m., but other than that "there is no distinct pattern of activity," said Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman.

The affected areas include Dacula, parts of Grayson and all of unincorporated Auburn, Loganville, Lawrenceville and Suwanee. Particular hot spots are communities near Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, McKendree Church Road, Collins Hill Road, Russell Road and Taylor Road corridors, Spellman said.

Some more popular items lifted from cars include GPS navigational devices, laptops, cell phones, purses and cameras.

Police have not identified suspects in most of the cases, Spellman said.

In light of the crime spike, police issued a message Thursday for easterly Gwinnettians: Fortify your vehicle in any way possible.

Police are distributing fliers to homeowners - and to entire homeowner associations - with tips to deter auto break-ins. Among them:

· Always remove valuables

· Install a locking fuel cap

· Park in well-lighted areas

· Never leave a vehicle running unattended

· Lock all doors and close all windows

"We're asking our citizens to help us in combating this problem," said Maj. Keybo Taylor, commander of the east precinct. "If we communicate with - and educate the communities that we serve - about these crimes, I'm confident that we can significantly reduce this activity."