By Linda Dillman
Criminals did not take a break in Canal Winchester after the holidays were over.
A rise in thefts continues in the city throughout major commercial shopping areas and the incidents typically involve purses and wallets stolen from individuals in parking lots entering and exiting stores.
Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Jesse Hendershot said, in the past six weeks, there were 34 reports taken at Walmart, 12 reports from residential homes, four reports at Kroger, two reports at Meijers, and single reports taken at Goodwill, Home Depot, Diley Ridge and BP.
Of those reports, five were purse snatchings—occurring at various times of the day and week—with four at Walmart and one at Kroger. The majority of criminals charged with theft come from the Columbus area.
According to Hendershot, reports involve a quick grab of the purse before the suspect takes off. The thefts were recently highlighted by the sheriff’s department because of how they are becoming more frequent. One ended up turning into a robbery because the male driver pulled a knife on the victim when she fought back to keep her purse.
No arrests have been made and video footage of incidents are being investigated.
However, with mask mandates it is difficult to identify individuals with a mask and if they also wear a hat. The penalty for theft can range from probation to one year in jail depending on the severity of the theft, criminal history and other factors.
“I don’t know for sure what’s causing it,” said Hendershot, “however it is something that is happening all over central Ohio. I would think that some of it is due to COVID-19 and loss of jobs. However, I still believe the majority of it is for drug use. No certain age being targeted. The criminal is looking for the opportunity. We need to keep them from having that opportunity.”
The sheriff’s office reminds residents to always be on alert for suspicious activity and offers the following tips.
Keep personal belongings close and within eyesight, never leave a purse unattended or in a shopping cart, limit the number of documents or credit cards you carry at a time—sensitive information could double the burden by adding identity theft, and if you see something, say something.
“I think it’s important to note that this is an increasing crime all over and that the public should continue to call should they see something suspicious,” said Hendershot. “Never leave valuables unattended. The mayor’s public safety alert has a lot of good info about how to stay proactive. We are also still having issues with call volume and the amount of thefts at Walmart. To date, this month we have had 28 calls there, averaging over one call per day and in December we had 42 calls at Walmart. Of the 12 residential thefts we have had, the range of items stolen include a gun from a car, deliveries from the front porch, stolen license plates, and other stolen items from cars. Please keep vehicles locked and valuables out of sight.”
For information, contact the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 614-837-7478