POLICE are warning people not to leave valuables in their cars after a massive spike in thefts in Ilkley during March.
The town has seen a four-fold increase in thefts from vehicles compared to February - and police say many people are leaving expensive items clearly on view.
Ilkley ward officer PC Sam Buckley has made repeated appeals to motorists to keep their property secure - but this week she said vehicles were still being left unlocked and valuables such as laptops cameras and purses were still being left in cars, often on display.
She told a meeting of Ilkley Parish Council thefts from motor vehicles had totalled 5 in February - but that figure had risen to 22 in March. Twelve of the incidents took place during the day in Ilkley beauty spots such as the Lido, Cow and Calf rocks, and Hangingstone Road.
Police have now stepped up patrols and have put warning signs up around tourist areas, and PC Buckley is planning to contact walking groups to make them aware of the risks.
She urged people not to leave any valuables in their vehicles at all, whether locked away or on view. And she stressed how even innocuous items could attract thieves.
"You might not think an empty bag left on the back seat will attract people - but unfortunately it will," she said."
PC Buckley has been checking vehicles around the town and advising their owners - many of them visitors to Ilkley - if she sees property left clearly visible.
She said she had been surprised that no-one had questioned what she was doing.
"I have been walking around in plain clothes and not one person has asked me what I am doing when I am looking into vehicles," she said.
She is also urging motorists to get into the habit of making sure their cars are locked at the end of each day.
"It is a good bedtime routine to check your house is locked and check your vehicle is locked before you go to bed," she said.
Police are now trying to trace two suspects who were seen acting suspiciously on Hangingstone Road on the afternoon of Sunday, March 26, when a motorist had come back to his vehicle and found a man sitting in it.
The man got out and went to a light blue or grey scruffy looking Astra. Both suspects are white and aged about 30. One has mousey blond hair and a front tooth missing. The second was about 5ft 10in, with dark features and a tattooed arm. He was wearing a black t shirt and black tracksuit bottoms.