Grove City churches get lesson in crime

Crime will always have a place in society.

It’s an unfortunate fact, but with preventative measures, businesses, people and churches can better protect their properties.

Members of the Grove City Division of Police helped area church leaders better understand identity theft, fraud, church safety and violence at a Church Safety and Violence Seminar Sept. 16. The seminar, which took place at St. John’s Lutheran Church, also discussed church block-watch and crime prevention.

Detective Teri Ruslander, who has spent 22 years with the police department and is a general investigation detective, admitted how easy it is for people to obtain other’s personal information. With the easy access of the Internet, criminals can access anything, Ruslander said.

Identity theft is a fifth degree felony unless committed against someone over the age of 65. In that case, Ruslander said, the seriousness of the crime raises to a third degree felony.

According to Detective Carrie Rose, a 6-year veteran of the police department, identity theft is theft or misuse of personal information which is used to gain financial value or evade criminal liability.

"Anything you have that’s personal to you that no one else has, that can be used for identity fraud," she said.

Criminals can obtain financial information such as routing numbers, bank card pins, credit card numbers as well as money market accounts, to use for their own gain, Rose said. Unfortunately, 60 percent of the time, those criminals cannot be identified in identity fraud and even more unfortunate for the victims is that it takes about four years to clear yourself of identity fraud.

A recent program released by the state’s Attorney General’s office will hopefully assist in protecting identities, according to Rose. The Passport Program is a program in which victims can demonstrate they have been a victim of identity theft as well as begin the process of rehabilitating their credit. Through this program, after the victim approaches a law enforcement agency, they are referred to the state, where the victim is issued a card with identifying information as well as the reporting law enforcement agency assisting the victim.

Criminals are becoming more creative in their crimes, and have come up with countless numbers of scams in order to make money. Ruslander pointed out scams such as Canadian lottery winnings, mailed settlement checks and even criminals hiding behind charitable as popular scams of late.

"Thieves are not the thieves of before," Rose said.

Audience members were interested in learning more about metal theft, especially as several church leaders mentioned their churches had succumbed to metal theft recently.

Criminals are turning to stealing air conditioners, catalytic converters in vehicles and copper in order to sell the materials for money. Ruslander said a little chip in catalytic converters are valued around $60, but can cost the vehicle owner up to $5,000 in repairs.

Law enforcement officials won’t always catch criminals, but when a criminal is arrested, often he or she will confess to other crimes and admit where the items were taken.

Rose and Ruslander reminded the audience that criminals do not always turn out to be lifelong criminals. Some only commit the crime out of need for food or money to support their families.

"Our mentality isn’t that everyone goes to jail," Ruslander said. "Because if we can help them, we will."

Prevention is everything, and it doesn’t hurt to invest in security measures, Ruslander said. Security alarms, cameras and even an abundance of lighting will assist in preventing crimes.

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