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Mishawaka police warn shoppers of multiple vehicle break-ins

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It's a busy time for shoppers, and police are alerting them of vehicle break-ins at local shopping centers.

In the past 15 days, seven people had their cars broken into and their valuables stolen at University Park Mall.

"To be violated that way is a terrible feeling," said Lt. Tim Williams with the Mishawaka Police Department.

But these break-ins are different. Police say the thieves are using technology.

There have been no signs of forced entry so police believe that the suspects are using technology, such as jammers, to enter the vehicles - but at this point police do not know HOW they're breaking in.

"All the owners we've talked to locked their doors, used a remote to lock their doors," said Williams.

That's where the trouble could be, according to police.

In newer GM models, whenever you press the lock button on a key fob, it sends a coded signal to unlock your car.

But every single time you press that lock button, it emits a new code.

"That's how rolling technology works," said Mark Knoblock, technician at Gurley Leep GM Giant. "It's supposed to be a different code every time you do it, you never send the same signal out twice."

Coding is a safety feature according to GM's handbook.

Several other cities including Chicago are reporting similar break-ins showing no sign of forced entry.

"We have people using technology to gain access to motor vehicles. That's a big concern," said Williams.

Car experts say thieves could be intercepting that code in a near-by car, or watching you in the parking lot. Once you hit that button, they can grab the code and unlock the doors immediately.

"The transmitters are only good for about 20-30 feet so if you see somebody sitting near your car with an antenna or is acting suspicious just be aware," warns Williams.

GM did issue a statement saying they are constantly working to improve anti-theft measures as new vehicles come out:

"Without details of each case, it is difficult to generalize. The generation of full-size trucks from 2000-2007 had security systems in place that were found by customers and in clinics to be best for customers at that time. General Motors has improved keys, lock cylinders and other security and anti-theft measures with each subsequent generation of vehicles."

It's also worth noting one of our local GM dealers has not seen any customers with this problem.

At this point, we're not sure if it's just GM vehicles or others as well.

But police say those out doing their holiday shopping can take precautions to prevent this from happening.

Shoppers can manually lock their doors using a key, that way you won't be sending a signal that someone could possible intercept.

Also, look around. If you notice someone sitting in a nearby car or someone watching you, you can contact police or mall security.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Mishawaka PD Detective's Bureau at (574) 258-1684

WSBT 22's Suzanne Spencer did some digging into this and will have a full report coming up on WSBT 22 News at 11.

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