The South Portland Police Department, which has been using computer program Geofeedia to monitor social media since 2014. Credit: Jake Bleiberg / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine – After almost a dozen car thefts since the beginning of the year, southern Maine authorities are looking for suspects and cautioning drivers.

Detectives from the South Portland Police Department said numbers of car thefts have increased since the new year and residents need to take extra precautions.

Over the weekend, Michael Loconte parked his car in a complex where his girlfriend lives, however when he returned Sunday to retrieve his vehicle it was gone.

“I left it there purposefully because it’s South Portland near the water, I thought I had nothing to worry about, but clearly I was wrong,” Loconte said. “I have a lot of items in there with sentimental value. I have a watch that my dad got me for my 50th birthday that I’m sure I’m not going to have back.”

Unfortunately, Loconte isn’t alone. Police have charged two local juveniles and are currently investigating two other suspects.

“In every instance, the key had been left in the car and many of the cars had actually been left running,” Christopher Todd of the South Portland Police Department said.

Dozens of cases have been reported since the beginning of the year, according to the South Portland Police Department.

“In this case, it’s pretty apparent that they’re just looking for easy targets,” Todd said. “They’re not going to chop shops, they’re literally joy riding. Fairly certain they’re just taking the cars to use as quick easy transportation to get from one place to another, and they’ll steal another car to get home and the cycle just keeps going.”

Authorities advise locking your doors all hours of the day and to keep anything valuable out of sight.