WESTPORT — Police say the town could see a record number of car break-ins this year if the current rate continues.

“In terms of actual number of stolen vehicles this is one of the highest years, and potentially is going to go down as the highest year on record in a very, very long time,” Westport Police Information Officer Anthony Prezioso said.

There have been 52 vehicles reported stolen from town or recovered so far this year, he said, up from 32 in 2019.

“That’s the whole year in 2019 and we still have November and December — so we expect that number to go up,” Prezioso said.

Officers are urging residents to lock their vehicles.

Police have seen an uptick in property crimes around town throughout the year, but noticed a spate of them this summer. Eight cars were reported stolen between July 30 and Aug. 4 alone, totaling $400,000 in property police said. All eight vehicles were left unlocked.

Prezioso said the eight stolen cars in the six-day period was the most recorded since police started keeping records in 2001.

“Highest number of cars stolen in the shortest amount of time,” he said. “The one thing they all had in common was every single one of those cars were unlocked with the keys left in the vehicle.”

Prezioso said it nearly became a nightly occurrence during the summer months that police were contacted about car break-ins for vehicles left unlocked.

In Weston, three cars were reported stolen overnight on Oct. 20.

“We’ve had these time to time in Weston,” Weston Police Chief Ed Henion said. “There are groups of juveniles that seem to be coming down to the area, into the suburbs, going into the cars and quite frankly all of these cars they were in driveways and they weren’t locked.”

Henion said Weston has seen more car break-ins this year than last year, but has still been relatively quiet compared to other areas.

“It’s hit or miss as far as how often it happens,” he said. “We actually recovered three of the stolen cars that were found abandoned after they were stolen.”

But in some cases vehicles are not just found in the same condition, according to Prezioso. Two particular cases involving cars stolen from Westport was particularly alarming, he said.

“One was being investigated as part of a shooting in Windsor and a second one that had been recovered was recovered in Hartford and had multiple bullet holes,” he said. “It was pretty much a 24-hour turnaround from when that car was stolen and when it was recovered, so in that very short window of time obviously it was involved in some kind of a shooting incident.”

Prezioso said Westport police recently met with Wilton, Shelton, and Trumbull police to discuss a way to tackle the ongoing problem in Fairfield County. He said the meeting also discussed ways to better inform residents about the importance of locking their cars and taking their valuables inside.

“Really it’s crimes of opportunity,” Prezioso said. “Generally what we’re seeing is groups of people targeting various neighborhoods going driveway to driveway trying car doors. If they encounter that door open they’re going to take a look, if the door is locked they’re going to move on.”

He said from seeing news releases from other agencies it appears the uptick in car break-ins is also being seen across the state.

“In terms of Fairfield County I can definitely speak on that and say the uptick has been pronounced,” Prezioso said.

While it’s not a nightly occurrence in Westport it occurs nightly in at least one of the municipalities in Fairfield County, he said. But he said the best solution is for residents to be proactive in securing their valuables.

“I certainly can’t stress it enough — lock the doors,” Prezioso said. “Take the valuables inside. That little ounce of prevention is really the difference between being victimized and not.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com