BELLEVUE, Ill. (WMBD) — Police said many Peoria County residents are leaving their cars unlocked and unprotected.

There have been a recent string of burglaries and thefts have hit the village of Bellevue in Peoria County.

Officers said it’s a crime of opportunity and repetition with county deputies responding to, collectively, about 140 car thefts and burglaries this year alone, and the number is even higher in the city of Peoria.

“People are becoming a little bit more bold with it,” Betsey Vinson, a resident of Bellevue, said.

Peoria County Sheriff Chris Watkins said there have been five reported instances, two thefts and three burglaries, since early Tuesday morning and he suspects there were actually more.

“I think everybody was pretty surprised by it,” Vinson said.

Vinson said she’s lived in Bellevue for almost a year now. She said she’s never heard of these types of vehicle crimes until recently.

There was a recent vehicle theft in her area and now she said neighbors are spreading information and awareness in an attempt to look out for each other.

“Making sure everybody locks their doors for one and taking valuables out of the car so that somebody doesn’t maybe look through the window and see something of value and want to bust in the window,” Vinson said.

One Bellevue resident recently posted a video of someone trying to open her daughter’s locked car door.

In addition to the attempted burglary, the video shows a car slowly driving down the street while at least three individuals, whose ages aren’t known, lurk onto people’s lawns.

Watkins said the Sheriff’s Office has video of the perpetrators and officers are looking for them. He also said many of the thefts happening have to do with people not locking their car doors and/or leaving key fobs in or around their cars.

“We’re not getting too many smash and grabs burglaries, it’s all crimes of opportunity,” Watkins said. “So we just try to remind people before you go to bed at night check your doors, make sure they’re locked. Make sure your key fobs are in the house. Just doing that goes a long way.”

He is also warning about confronting criminals head-on.

“We even had one incident where they stole a car and one of our victims came out to confront them, got on the car and they actually drove away with our victim on the car,” Watkins said. “So, it’s getting dangerous.”

He said if you catch someone in the act, do not confront them, but rather call the police and give descriptions of the criminals including the direction where they went. He also said having doorbell cameras, especially spotlight cameras will come in handy as the spotlight may scare them.

Watkins also said many of the perpetrators are juveniles, some as young as 12 years old, who may not serve real jail time if caught because of the point system.

“You have to have so many points to score out to be accepted into the Juvenile Detention Center,” Watkins said. “So, it just depends on the element of the crime and sometimes property crimes, which are stolen vehicles and burglary to vehicles, those are don’t qualify. So we try to work with our state’s attorney and our judicial system.”

“Sometimes we have to take them home to their parents, so it’s a struggle for us but usually when we do catch them because they’ll keep doing it until they get caught most of the time,” Watkins said.

He said people should always secure their property and use caution in any instance, as some cases may involve weapons.