Gardai have urged the public to 'park smart' following a spate of thefts from unoccupied cars across the North Cork region.
The warning has come after eight such thefts were reported in Mallow over recent days, with cash and other items stolen.
Fermoy-based crime prevention officer Sgt John Kelly said it would be wrong to say many cars were 'broken into' - as it transpired they had actually been left unlocked by their owners.
"In most of these incidents there was no sign of forced entry, there were no damaged doors or locks and no broken windows. People had not taken even the most basic of security measures by simply locking their cars," said Sgt Kelly.
"When people are away from home they tend to lock their cars. However, when parking them outside their homes or in their drives they seem to think they are immune to this kind of theft and have a false sense of security. As we have seen over recent days, that is most definitely not the case," he added.
Gardaí estimate that on average more than €340,000 worth of property, including cash, jewellery, tools, laptops and sports equipment is stolen from unlocked cars each year.
In fact, between 2016 and 2019 it is estimated that more than €30 million worth of items have been stolen from vehicles.
Sgt Kelly said that it is often the case that these kind of thefts are perpetrated by opportunist gangs who travel from outside of the target area.
"We even have CCTV footage of fellas going along a street trying the doors handles of one car after another. If a car they try car is locked they keep going until they find a car that is unlocked and then rifle through it," he said.
Sgt Kelly urged people "not to make it easy for these criminals."
"Our advice is to never store valuables in a car and if you have to keep them out of sight, park your vehicle in a secure and well-lit spot where possible and, most importantly of all, make sure it is alarmed and locked,"he said.
Sgt Kelly said the warning also extended to other items left in gardens, for example expensive ride-on lawnmowers.
"People tend to leave these items outdoors overnight and they can often become easy pickings, part at this time of the year," he said.