At apartment parking lots across Gainesville, police officers have been issuing vehicle security “report cards” to deter burglaries.
These blue pass-fail notices, posted underneath car windshield wipers, are meant to function as wake-up calls for residents who may have left their cars unlocked or who have left valuables in plain sight.
Although police find the initiative important for educating the public amid a burglary surge, some residents see it as a violation of privacy and a waste of public resources.
“A majority of folks that have received these understand what we’re doing,” said Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias. “But we have heard some very vocal complaints, ones that were pretty accusatory of us, on social media.”
The program, which began about five years ago, has been sporadically used, he said. Officers visit apartment lots and other parking lots, checking up on a group of cars in the area.
Tobias said he is not aware of any other police department that has implemented a similar program.
Despite what some critics have alleged, Tobias said officers do not pull door handles. They look through the car window to see if the lock peg is up or down.
“We’re not going to commit a burglary ourselves just to get a point across about safety,” he said.
Tobias said residents should take solace in the fact that, of anyone who could be checking on their cars, it’s police officers.
But the report cards placed on cars may encourage burglaries, said Moe Farag, an Eastside High School junior who lives at The Laurels Apartments.
Instead of a potential burglars pulling on handles, a passersby can just take the flier and see if the car is unlocked or has any valuables inside of it before deciding to commit the crime.
Because of this, the report cards officers leave could lead to a burglary, the 16-year-old said.
“If you don’t have a good reason, you could just stop doing it,” Farag said.
Dr. Yasser Samra, who works at UF Health Shands Hospital, said the program wastes officers’ time.
“If they don’t have anything better to do, then fine,” he said. “But they probably have something better to do.”
Paul Ramdial, whose children attend UF and live at The Laurels Apartments, forgot to lock his car Wednesday night while visiting his son and daughter at the complex.
He said he understands criticisms of the program, but he thinks police are just trying to help.
“But being the way we are about how we value our privacy, I can see the conflict,” he said.