The police cruisers pulled into the Penfield Beach parking lot just after 5:30 p.m. and the officers began to fan out, peering into cars.

It didn't take long before they found what they were looking for -- an unlocked vehicle with valuables left out in plain view. That car, and several others, got "tagged."

The "ticket" placed on the windshield let the car owner know that he or she had left items of value --from purses to GPS units to cellphones and, in at least one case, a set of house keys -- in a spot where anyone could see them.

The tickets issued in the new "Ticket Tagging" crime-awareness program serve as a reminder to motorists to leave valuables at home or in a vehicle's trunk, as well as to close the vehicle's windows and sunroofs and to lock the doors.

"It's the simple things people forget to do, and we're trying to remind them," said Police Chief Gary MacNamara.

The police conducted similar ticketing "raids" in several neighborhoods, including the Brooklawn Avenue and Stratfield Road areas that have been particularly hard hit by car break-ins.

Since July 1 in Fairfield, 60 cars have been broken into and estimates of loss total in the thousands of dollars, police said.

"Normally, we're looking for evidence of a crime, but tonight we're looking to prevent a crime," MacNamara said. "These types of crimes are crimes of opportunity. If the Police Department and the public work together, we can prevent a lot of this."

MacNamara said the goal of the raids was to remind residents of the simple steps they can take to prevent car break-ins.

"We're going to pass the word that it's not okay to enable this criminal behavior," said Lt. James Perez, a police spokesman.

At the beach parking lot, Officer Mark Fracassini pointed out a GPS unit on an SUV's dashboard. Taking the GPS unit or locking it in the trunk is not enough, he said. The dashboard holder alone -- or even the round circles left on the windshield by the holder -- is enough to alert a thief to the potential for valuables in a vehicle. To be safe, take the GPS, lock up the holder and wipe off the unit's suction cup circles, he advised.

Police also recommend storing personal items in a vehicle before arriving at the destination and parking in a well-illuminated spot with lots of foot traffic.