WESTFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Car thieves in Union and Middlesex counties have devised a new way to target high end vehicles.

As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, country clubs in the area are the new hot spot for car crimes. Within the last three weeks, Westfield‘s chief of police says at least one car has been stolen from Echo Lake Country Club, and there have been several other attempts to steal unlocked high end vehicles.

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“A 2019 Land Rover Range Rover. It was unlocked, with its key fob in it, and it also reportedly had $35,000 worth of personal possessions in there as well,” said Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro.

That’s a big score for criminals.

“What we have seen is stolen vehicles enter upon the property. The occupants exit those vehicles, and pull on door handles looking for unlocked vehicles,” Battiloro said.

Echo Lake sent out an email to members warning them to lock their vehicles and not to leave behind valuables.

Battiloro says Plainfield Country Club in Edison has also been a target. A Westfield resident had their garage door opener and registration with their home address taken.

“Certainly subjects victims to residential burglaries later on, later dates, attempts to steal cars from garages,” Battiloro said.

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Battiloro says this is a crime of opportunity. It can happen anywhere, at any time. So simply lock it up.

Neighbors are urging neighbors to be vigilant.

“Even though we live in a safe neighborhood I still believe that we need to close and lock all doors,,” said Westfield resident Josephine Balner.

“Don’t keep important things in your car,” said resident Julie Samuels.

“You’ve made a point that everyone is in this together. It takes a community effort to stop this,” Baker said

“It certainly does. Fighting crime is like any other community problem, it requires participation of the community,” Battiloro said.

Unfortunately, it seems the message has not gotten through. Seventeen vehicles, including pricey sports cars, sedans and SUVs have been stolen from Westfield so far this year.

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Meg Baker contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team