A rash of vehicle break-ins in Canal Winchester earlier this year is a reminder that crime can happen at any time.
On Jan. 16, the Fairfield County deputies received nearly a dozen calls of car windows smashed and personal items stolen out of vehicles.
“After several calls in the same area, we realized someone had been out overnight,” said Sgt. Marian DeVault. “We got 11 calls. Some didn’t even realize their car had been gone through if they leave it unlocked or didn’t notice anything missing.”
Gone were DVD’s, a laptop, textbooks, book bag, iPods, purse, wallet, tires/rims and hand tools.
“The areas hit were Ashbrooke, Westchester, Rossmore, Thrush Drive, Jenkins and Walnut,” said DeVault.
DeVault said suspects typically park and walk through neighborhoods in the dark, looking in cars, trying door handles and breaking windows. They dress in dark clothing to blend in and hide with no one seeing them. If items are large, thieves may stage them and come back to pick them up with their car.
While break-ins sometimes go unresolved, the suspects’ alleged January activity was quickly discovered.
“The three subjects went back to an apartment in Circleville. They made so much noise unloading between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. that someone called the police,” said DeVault. “Once the police arrived, they found a lot of the items. There were a couple of envelopes with addresses and names that led them to call us. We sent detectives over with most of our reports and they were able to identify the items. Some people didn’t know their things were missing.”
The suspects were known to local law enforcement and had prior histories of theft. None of them had regular jobs.
“This was their job,” said DeVault. “They would go out and break into cars, then pawn, sell or trade the items.”
With warmer weather, the opportunity for criminal activity grows and DeVault advises citizens to not leave any valuables in their car, regardless if the vehicle is parked in a driveway, garage or lot. Theft is a crime of opportunity and criminals go car to car looking for unsecured items.
“If a garage is left open, they will take things from there, also” said DeVault. “Tools, tires, power tools, also the garage door opener. Usually people leave the door to the house unlocked from the garage. I have had criminals go in and take from the kitchen jars of coins, wallets and purses on the counter, keys to vehicles, etc. It’s scary to think that someone is in your house while you are sleeping.”
Canal Winchester resident Cindi Lynch said thieves visited her neighborhood in the past.
“We have had small crimes, items taken off porches in the Mound Street and on Columbus Street area, change taken out of cars and broken windshields,” said Lynch. “One neighbor had a camera on his home and was able to identify the person that broke into their car and the person was arrested. Squatters were in a home in Canal Cove that was suspected of many of the thefts. Many neighbors pulled together to encourage the individuals to leave, which the squatters did within a few days.”
Lynch said a daytime break-in prompted neighbors to take steps towards a safer community. She said neighbors are locking all of their doors and many are installing wireless security systems and cameras on the outside of their homes. Residents are in the process of establishing a Blockwatch program.
“These are preliminary discussions and we will need to discuss more with the local police,” said Lynch. “Our area will consist of Columbus Street and Waterloo Street East of High Street towards the Fairfield County line. We are planning block walks throughout the day until a formal process is put in place. I would encourage everyone to organize for their block.”