UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. -- A steady stream of car thefts and burglaries in northern Bergen County could end, Upper Saddle River police say -- if owners simply locked their vehicles and didn't leave the key fobs or other valuables inside.
Thieves earlier this week took two Jeep Grand Cherokees from residents' homes, boosting the total over the past two years to more than two dozen snatched in Upper Saddle River alone.
The bandits entered several other cars, as well, making off with cash, E-ZPass transponders, iPhones, prescription drugs and more, Detective Lt Edward Kane said.
The primary culprits: unlocked doors and waiting key fobs.
"It's a huge problem in upper Bergen County," Kane told Daily Voice.
"They're not breaking into cars. The ones they take or burglarize were left open. Many have push-button starters -- people just leave the keys in the center console.
"[The thieves] are simply going up to unlocked cars, getting in and driving away with them," he said. "Or they're taking all kinds of valuables.
"These are luxury vehicles, all valued at high amounts," Kane said. "Some of them are worth up to $80,000."
Some vehicles vanish. Several others -- such as the two Jeeps stolen from Upper Saddle River this week -- are eventually found in and around Newark.
All are usually gone in 60 seconds.
"We've put the message out several times," Kane said. "But it keeps happening."
Police in Alpine, Closter, Tenafly and elsewhere have faced the same problem.
One Franklin Lakes resident a few months ago reported $4,100 stolen from his unlocked pickup truck, while another said someone took her Jeep -- after she left the key inside.
Police in Tenafly recall the theft of an Audi A8 from the Knickerbocker Country Club after owner left the key fob -- along with $900 in cash and a cellphone -- in the car.
“Lock you vehicles," Franklin Lakes Police Capt. John Bakelaar urged owners, "and don’t leave valuables in them overnight."
Keep an eye out, as well, police say.
“Call us even if you suspect someone may have entered your car looking for valuables but nothing was stolen,” Tenafly Detective Capt. deMoncada said. “We take all of these reports seriously, and information like this may be helpful in our investigation.
“We say it so often, but if you see something, please say something," deMoncada said. "These types of cases are often solved by someone who makes a key observation, simply by being in the right place at the right time.”