STONINGTON — Police are urging residents to take precautions and lock both their cars and homes after 30 vehicles were entered and one was stolen from a Pawcatuck neighborhood overnight.

Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson said that the overnight incidents were first discovered in the Castle Hill Road area early Monday morning and all occurred either there or in surrounding neighborhoods. Every car that was entered was left unlocked, he said, and the car that was stolen had the keys inside.

The police are still working with victims to determine exactly what has been taken, a task police said would take some time to sort out. Those in the Castle Hill Road area also reported online that they had found several IDs and a bag that were left behind by the culprit or culprits, and that evidence has been turned over to police.

“We want to be clear, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to make sure you secure any valuables and lock up your car,” Olson said. “It is very important that residents do not leave their keys inside; if they have access to your car then that means they could also have access to your garage door opener or keys, and therefore your home.”

Stonington first reported a rash of incidents in May, and has issued several warnings over the summer urging residents to lock up. And they haven’t been alone.

The string of incidents is just the latest in the region, which has been hit by a number of similar overnight sprees that have also occurred in Westerly, Hopkinton and Groton as well.   

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In mid-August, Hopkinton police issued a warning via Facebook after a half-dozen thefts from cars in just a 24-hour period. A week and a half later, Westerly police reported that over the course of a week there were five stolen cars. Police indicated the cars were left unlocked in all cases, and keys were inside in cases where the car was stolen.

Due to technology in the cars, Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said his officers were able to trace the vehicle GPS systems and cars were later located in parking lots in Hartford, West Hartford and Windsor. Each of the cars were recovered with little to no damage, he said.

“It is definitely a concern that has become more common across the region this summer,” Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said. “In our case, these were newer and more luxury-style cars and we were able to utilize GPS systems in them in order to locate the vehicles.”

Westerly and Hopkinton police have said their investigation revealed that the cases may be related to an ongoing string of thefts that has plagued southwestern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. The investigations remain active, the police said.

Police in each community also urged residents to report any suspicious activity they may see in their neighborhoods. Police in each community said officers would rather respond and find it was nothing than to be told only after a crime has been committed.

“We want people to be aware of what’s going on, and to take proactive precautions to keep themselves and their families safe,” Olson said. “That’s the message we’re trying to get out there.”

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