POLICE have warned people to take extra care, after the number of cars broken into in the Chichester district rose this year.
So far in May there have been 30 reported break-ins, while there were just 20 in the whole of May last year.
Joe Divis, 59, from Angmering, parked near East Dean earlier this month with his wife and daughter to go for a walk, but while they were away their Range Rover and two other cars had windows smashed and belongings taken from inside.
“I’m speaking exactly the same as someone who’s had a house burglary,” said Mr Divis.
The windows of his vehicle were smashed and someone had reached in to open the glove compartment.
“Imagine what all these people were feeling when they came back to their cars to see they were needlessly smashed up,” he said.
The thieves took his daughter’s coat and a pair of glasses. The cost of repairing the damage is around £3,000.
Mr Divis said he did not want his experience to discourage people from parking near Chichester and making the most of the countryside.
“We know we have some beautiful sites in West Sussex,” he said.
He also called for people to find out ways to protect their vehicles to put off thieves.
“It has to be a two-way street. It has to be something we’ve done to help the police,” he said, adding: “If we give up these guys are just going to regard us as open season.”
The break-in came while the family were practising for the Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for Canine Partners.
The challenge involves walking the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within three days.
“You’re raising money because you believe very much in the cause. It’s a sad way to go that way – doing something for the good of someone else and you end up being £3,000 down because you’re trying to help out.”
A spokeswoman from Chichester Police said: “Our message is to always remove your valuables. When planning your journey spend an extra moment to think about whether you need to take certain items with you. If you know the route, do you need your sat nav? If you are going for a walk, do you need your handbag?
“Simply hiding items under chairs or in boots isn’t enough. Thieves know where items are hidden and can often be watching from a distance.”
She urged anyone who saw anything suspicious to call 999. Areas targeted in the area include Droke Lane, in East Dean, Stansted Park, Harting Hill, Cocking Hill and Downs Road, in West Stoke.