Americans learn of locked-car law the hard way
September 23, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Add this to the never-ending list of German laws you didn’t know about: It’s illegal to leave your car unlocked when you’re not in it.
Prompted by a trend this year of items being stolen from unlocked cars, German and American police checked more than 400 cars Thursday night in Ramstein-Miesenbach, according to the German newspaper Die Rheinpfalz. Ramstein-Miesenbach is the German village located just outside Ramstein Air Base’s west gate and is home to legions of Americans.
The authorities found 60 cars were unlocked, and almost all the unlocked cars belonged to Americans, according to the newspaper.
Police found credit cards, wallets, digital music players and a military uniform, according to the report. A photograph in the paper showed police retrieving a U.S. military helmet from a car trunk.
The police confiscated anything they found in the cars, but left a note behind for the owners to pick up their belongings at the police station. The legal foundation for the police’s proceeding is a police law that allows police forces to confiscate property in order to prevent its loss, according to the German newspaper.
"Some of the people who came to pick up their property showed understanding for the unusual police method, but other ones were just upset about it," said Wolfgang Denzer, German police spokesman.
Since January, thieves had pilfered items from more than 75 unlocked cars in the Ramstein area, according to the newspaper. Nearly every week, the command-information newspaper Kaiserslautern American has several entries in its police blotter section citing car break-ins.
"It’s important for people to secure their vehicles and highly valuable items," said Army Maj. Clinton Lee Jr., U.S. Army Garrison-Kaiserslautern’s provost marshal.
Lee advised to not leave valuable items in your vehicle when it is unattended.
"We needed a reminder that each U.S. military member in the KMC is responsible for safeguarding official equipment and information," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Bill Bender, KMC commander.
"This is a force-protection issue, a criminal issue, and it’s the local law to lock our doors. Thanks to our partnership with the Landstuhl Polizei, we reinforced our policy of constant vigilance without serious consequences."